A glimpse into the world’s 4th largest smartphone market
And, why no one talks about it
The only time I’ve ever heard the words Russia and smartphone in the same line was when the Yota phone was launched back in 2012. The Yota Phone made a lot of noise for having a secondary e-ink display that was unlike anything ever seen before on a smartphone then. Surprisingly, apart from this nostalgic memory of this weird phone, I don’t remember either hearing or reading about the Russian smartphone market.
If you didn’t know, Russia stands to be the 5th largest smartphone market in the world in terms of no. of smartphone users, beating even Brazil & Indonesia that have a higher population. So why is it that Russia doesn’t catch the attention of international publications like Brazil & Indonesia does? While the previous statement I made can be classified as anecdotal evidence, I am inclined to think that there is probably something more at play. According to me, these are some reasons why the Russian smartphone market isn’t as widely talked about around the world.
Fun Fact: Russia has more smartphone users than UK & South Korea combined.¹
Russia happens to be a country that is home to one of the least English-speaking population around the world. With a population of 144.5 million, only 5.48% of its population speaks English. In comparison, a decent 10.35% of the 1.34 billion speak and understand English. This can be a reason why a lot of English international tech publications, that we are usually exposed to tend not to cover news regarding the Russian market; it isn’t as lucrative as news from markets like India that have a much broader audience.
Another reason why Russia’s smartphone market is probably not heard of as often might be because of how fast markets like India, Indonesia, China, and Brazil have grown. India recently trumped the United States to be the second biggest smartphone market in the world. This along with the Russian financial crisis that hampered the smartphone market in Russia drew the attention of smartphone makers (and hence publications) to other growing markets.
So what is the Russian smartphone market like now?
According to a report by IDC, the Russian market seems to be doing very well and is even setting record numbers. In 2018, Russia’s smartphone market reached record value in 2018. With the recovery in the Russian economy and an eventual rise in disposable incomes, consumers are now spending more on smartphones than ever before.
Huawei, Samsung & Apple stand to be the top three brands in Russia with Samsung & Huawei leading with a share of 28% and 24% respectively. Players like Xiaomi and Bright & Quick are also doing well and stand to be in the top 5 smartphone brands in the country.
Some facts & features of the Russian Smartphone market
- Despite a decline in the global smartphone market, the Russian smartphone market has seen consistent growth in the last few years. This makes Russia another attractive destination for OEMs who want to diversify their portfolio countries.
- With an increase in disposable incomes, Chinese smartphone OEMs like Huawei & Xiaomi have now started to focus on the Russian market and expand their offerings there. Vingroup, Vietnam’s top listed firm by market value, has acquired a 51% stake in BQ (a Spanish smartphone maker) and has been vocal about Russia being a potential market for their smartphones.
- For a brief period in 2016, India’s home-grown handset brand Micromax had entered the top three brands league in Russia with a market share of 9%.
- Yandex, Russia’s largest search engine, has also entered the smartphone market and has aggressively marketed its phone that has gained a lot of interest from consumers who are apparently hooked to Yandex’s ecosystem that includes apps for payment, music, maps, taxi and food app.
- Russia is also a lucrative market for gaming phones and Blockchain-friendly phones (like the HTC Exodus 1).
While this isn’t an exhaustive piece on the Russian smartphone market, I hope it gave you some background on a consistently growing smartphone market that isn’t talked about as much.