Growing customer demand for digital entertainment services, including video streaming and online TV, has stimulated higher sales of more advanced and premium smartphones. In 2017, the strongest trend in consumer behavior was an upsurge in sales of smartphones priced over RUB 40,000. In monetary terms, this category of smartphones demonstrated an impressive growth of 79% y-o-y. The second fastest growing category were smartphones priced at RUB 20,000 - 30,000, showing a 21% increase compared to 2016. In the RUB 30,000 - 40,000 price segment, sales grew by 15%. At the same time, lower-end devices priced below RUB 5,000 saw a 39% decline in sales.
The popularity of premium smartphones also fueled an overall growth in credit sales which increased by 40% in unit terms and by 74% in monetary terms. The average price of a smartphone bought on credit increased to RUB 19,000 (+24% y-o-y). At the same time, customers this year opted for loans repayable over 24 months sixteen times more often than in 2016 – a period corresponding to the average lifespan of a modern smartphone. Purchase costs distribution over a longer period of time allowed customers to choose premium tariff plans with higher data allowance.
Today, an advanced smartphone helps users manage their daily tasks and serves as a single access point for entertainment, replacing several devices – tablet, camera, music player, e-book and banking card. As a result, consumers are increasingly seeking more reliable and faster handsets which boast high-resolution screens, advanced cameras and NFC functionality. For operators this trend means greater data consumption – in 2017, MTS saw an increase of 252% compared to the previous year.
Kirill Dmitriev, Vice President, Sales and Customer Service, MTS, commented: “We are witnessing a turning point in consumer behavior, with smartphones increasingly seen as integrated hubs of digital life. This drives consumers, even those with low income, to buy more expensive devices so they can access heavier digital content everywhere and at any time. More and more of our subscribers prioritize powerful devices that enable them to watch movies, play games, use social networks, post photos and publish stories on social platforms such as Instagram.
Kirill continued, “To keep pace with evolving customer demand, we offer affordable handsets that provide easy access to digital entertainment. Moreover, at MTS, we are actively developing our own digital ecosystem - mobile music, mobile TV and video-on demand. Our menu of services has been enlarged with e-ticketing service as a result of our recent acquisitions of Ponominalu.ru and Ticketland.ru.”
The average smartphone price at MTS retail stores increased from RUB 9,502 in 2016 to 11,846 in 2017 (+24.7%) which is 13% lower than the average smartphone price on the Russian smartphone market (RUB 13,417). The difference is explained by the fact that MTS retail network keeps prices at minimum, offering its customers the option to choose higher-end devices without typical retail mark-ups.
Among the most popular brands were Samsung, Apple and Honor/Huawei, which collectively accounted for the majority of smartphone sales in MTS retail stores. The overall share of the three manufacturers totaled roughly 85.8% of all gadgets sold in 2017. In 2017, Apple demonstrated solid growth of 1.5x both in monetary and unit terms. One of the main contributing factors was a decrease in retail prices; in Q4 2017, for example, the most popular model on the Russian market was iPhone SE 32GB priced at RUB 18,490 in the MTS retail stores, an annual drop of 40% from the initial price of RUB 33,000 in Q4 2016. Honor/Huawei also boosted its sales showing a 285% and 342% growth in unit and monetary terms respectively. These developments negatively affected Alcatel branded smartphone sales which dropped by 64% in unit terms.
Russian smartphone market in 2017
In Russia, the overall smartphone sales in 2017 amounted to RUB 386 bln (+17.3% y-o-y). In unit terms, retailers together sold 28.4 mln devices (+6% y-o-y) and set a new record, exceeding the previous all-time high of 27.6 mln devices sold in 2014.
Samsung remained the most sought-after brand in 2017. The Korean manufacturer’s market share amounted to 25.2% in unit terms (+3.5 p.p.) and 29.2% in monetary terms (+3.5 p.p.). The main driver for such boost in sales was the successful start of Samsung’s flagship models - Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus.
Apple’s market share at the end of 2017 accounted for 12.8% in unit terms (+1.7 p.p.) and 34.4% in monetary terms (+0.5 p.p.).
The third most popular brand was Honor/Huawei. The vendor's market share demonstrated a strong growth and reached 9.6% (+5.3 p.p.) in unit terms and 8.5% (+4.7 p.p.) in monetary terms. Another rapidly growing player was Xiaomi – the Chinese manufacturer entered the TOP-5, most highly demanded smartphone brands in Russia with a market share of 4.1% (+3.5 p.p.) in unit terms and 3.7% (+2.9 p.p.) in monetary terms.