According to a recent report by Counterpoint Research, the Indian market for budget smartphones is significantly slowing down. Many people are choosing to hold off on purchasing new smartphones, unless they are looking for a premium experience. However, sales for premium smartphones — priced at Rs 30,000 or more — have not slowed down at all. In fact, the premium segment now dominates the total smartphone market.
There is no product more premium than a “Pro” iPhone model or a foldable smartphone. Samsung has been focusing on foldables since 2019 and has seen great success, particularly in the second half of 2022. However, the demand for foldable phones could increase even more if there are more phones like the newly launched Tecno Phantom V Fold. At Rs 88,888, this phone costs almost half as much as the Galaxy Z Fold 4 and even less than the Oppo Find N2 Flip or the Galaxy Z Flip 4.
The Tecno Phantom V Fold is the first fully made-in-India foldable smartphone manufactured in its Noida factory. This has helped reduce the phone’s price by at least 20%. Additionally, the presence of the MediaTek Dimensity 9000+ chipset has helped, as MediaTek’s processors are often more affordable than Qualcomm’s. Tecno has likely used a screen not procured from Samsung Display, the grandmaster behind folding screen technology. Its dual 50-megapixel sensors for the wide-angle and telephoto cameras don’t come from Sony or Samsung. Tecno has not disclosed the names of the vendors, but it is likely using OmniVision or another third-party supplier, which is why the Phantom V Fold has a price advantage.
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Tecno’s heavy lifting
To say that all these things are compromises would be unfair to Tecno. These smart product choices enable a more affordable product that has the potential to democratise foldable smartphones. For example, MediaTek has made significant gains with its Dimensity line of processors, and brands like Xiaomi, Oppo, and Vivo often use its chipsets. It has closed the gap on Qualcomm, and the Dimensity 9000+ is built on the same TSMC 4nm node as the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 seen on the Galaxy Z Fold 4. Performance should not be an issue.
During the launch event, I briefly tested the Phantom V Fold and found the display to be impressive. The unfolded 7.85-inch screen provided a broad canvas, and the crease was barely visible, unlike the Galaxy Z Fold 4. This is due to its new tear drop-style notch, which I expect Samsung to adopt later this year. Surprisingly, Tecno, an unknown brand, has done it before the pioneer of foldable phones. Even the outer 6.42-inch screen is vastly more usable than the Samsung fold, as it is wider and has a subtle curve to it.
Tecno has done the heavy lifting on the software side to ensure the phone makes better use of the wide canvas at its disposal. HiOS has been optimised with 2000 apps for multitasking. It feels fluid even though the look and feel of the UI is reminiscent of what Huawei was doing in 2016; it works. It works better than Samsung’s OneUI. The battery life should be quite decent. The 5,000mAh battery with the new MediaTek chip should provide enough power for a full day, and a 45-watt charger comes in the box.
Finally, the cameras are worth mentioning. To be honest, they aren’t perfect. Cameras often pose the most significant challenge in the smartphone experience, as they involve both hardware and software aspects. The intricate interplay between the sensor and tuning determines the output, which typically relies on considerable data from numerous phone sales. However, Samsung doesn’t equip the Z Fold 4 with its best camera package, so it’s unfair to say the Phantom V Fold’s camera stack is 50% inferior. In fact, it will likely improve further with software updates.
Tecno has truly outdone itself, even though there are concerns regarding the hinge, performance, and overall after-sales support. Yet, on paper, it offers a fantastic deal, including a two-year warranty, six months of free screen replacement (1 time), and a Rs 5,000 cashback for HDFC customers.
Tecno may be the first to achieve this, but it won’t be the last. One can expect the OnePlus foldable to hit the sub-Rs 1,00,000 market later this year, intensifying the competition in this premium segment. Samsung will likely have something special up its sleeve for its 5th generation model, or at least we hope so.
Sahil Mohan Gupta is Editor, Technology at Acko Drive. Views are personal.