In the smartphone war between Indian and global brands, it’s pricing against reliability.

Is buying a product made by a ‘big’ company better than buying a similar one made by a lesser known company? Or is a product with a bigger price tag necessarily better ?

We all have been in situations where we are have to decide on whether to go for smartphone ‘A’ from a global company or for a similar, cheaper one from a desi company. An example can be the ‘battle’ between Samsung Grand and Micromax Canvas HD. Those who were almost mentally prepared to buy a Galaxy Note or Note II changed their minds when Samsung came out with Grand. The phone almost looked like a Note, but with different specs and a much more affordable price tag.

Just when potential Note customers decided to settle for the Grand came the announcement of the launch of Canvas HD from Micromax, which comes at a price that’s at least Rs 8,000 less.

The Canvas’ specifications almost matched Grand’s. Both were ‘phablets’ with similar size and configurations. But the dilemma was, or is still is, about the desi brand. Are Indian brands less reliable? Do their products last as much as one from a more popular brand? Or, to look at it the other way around, just because it’s a popular brand, are all its products reliable?

Unfortunately no. I know at least three users of Note and Note II (one of them is yours truly) who have had serious issues with the phones within months of purchase. One of the handsets failed to connect to the Wi-Fi network no matter how many times I tried. The service centre had no other option but to change the motherboard on the unit. Mine keeps freezing every ten minutes, even when I’m not using any apps . I have tried everything from resetting the phone to reinstalling the firmware. A forum suggested formatting the memory card. I tried that too, but the result has been the same. It has now back at the service centre.

My 3-month-old BlackBerry too conked within the first three months. The service centre too seems to be clueless. It’s over two weeks since the mobile went for service. I am yet to hear from the service centre.

Both BlackBerry and Samsung are global brands, but it does not mean that you can be necessarily ensured of a problem-free product. My friend has a Lava bought more than a year ago. It still functions without a hitch. Here too, there are many who have bought the Galaxy Note II before me, but have faced no problems.

Better support

One advantage that bigger brands have is the support from users and groups in the Internet. I was able to get enough troubleshooting tips to last two full days in my ‘quest’ set right the Galaxy Note II on my own. Many forums were discussing exactly the same issue I was facing. Though everyone had loads of tips to fix the issue, all the discussions almost ended with the ‘helpful’ suggestion to approach a service centre.

It’s not the same with Indian brands. Support is available but is limited. This is a small drawback, but for those who would like to explore their devices deeply, lack of forum support could be a huge drawback. However, if you are a web-addict there is no dearth of generic Android-related discussions or help.

So, it doesn’t mean that the brand doesn’t matter. The friend who has the Lava also has a Sony and says the hardware and display just cannot be compared. And he is correct. There have been several “me too” phones (phablets), but none of them have been able to match the Galaxy Note series of phablets.

Then there are those who don’t want to be caught with a desi brand in their hand, no matter how good it is. It is this attitude that goes against many Indian brands, even though they have excellent products.

But this attitude is slowly changing. People with Micromax and Lava are more visible nowadays. If it has to sustain or improve, Indian brands have to sustain and match global brands - product for product.

dinakaran.rengachary@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on March 14, 2013)
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