Jiophone decimates Samsung, itel; Powers LYF to No.1 in January

LYF, the mobile phone brand that was launched along with Reliance Jio, emerged as India’s No.1 mobile phone brand by shipments in January, market researcher CMR said.

In January, LYF had a share of 27% in the overall mobile phone market in India, while Samsung was a distant second with just 12.1%.

This was primarily because of massive shipments of Jiophone, the ‘free’ feature phone that works only on Reliance Jio’s 4G service.

It is estimated that nearly all of the 27% market share for LYF was contributed by Jiophone.

It should be noted that the above numbers are based on ‘shipments’, and not actual, retail sales.

Shipments track the number of units dispatched by companies to their dealers, where they may remain for a few days or weeks or even months.

CMR did not give the actual numbers of shipments. However, around 30 mln phones are shipped in India every month. Given that January saw a huge jump in Jiophone shipments, the total is likely to have been around the 35 mln mark, out of which Jiophone would have contributed about 9.4 mln.

To put this into perspective, Jiophone sales have never been higher than 6 mln per month as of December, 2017.

Following on the heels of LYF was itel, which registered a market share of 11% in the featurephone segment. Samsung was third in the featurephone category with a 7% market share. This implies that the number of featurephones shipped by Samsung during the month was not even one-fifth the number shipped by LYF.

CMR said Samsung could still make a comeback into the market if shipments pick up in February and March.

“For Samsung to continue maintaining its overall leadership, it would need to increase its shipments in the rest of 1Q 2018 by at least 25-30%,” said Prabhu Ram, who heads the Industry Intelligence Group at CMR.


The booming sales of Jiophone also upset the balance between sales of featurephones and smartphone in India.

The two had become almost comparable in recent quarters due to the increasing popularity of 4G, which was hitherto only available on smartphones.

However, in January, 72% of the total phones shipped were classified as ‘featurephones’.

Assuming that 27 percentage points out of this was contributed by Jiophone, it would put the real featurephone share at 45%. Smartphones accounted for 38%.

Though classified as a featurephone, Jiophone is actually a smartphone, as it runs on a third-party operating system known as KaiOS, made from the remains of Firefox OS. Among the few app-makers who have ported their apps to KaiOS is Facebook.

“These results underline the importance and dominance of feature phones market segment in India,” CMR’s Prabhu Ram said.

“If LYF is able to maintain its strong performance through the reminder of quarter, we believe LYF is on course to take the top honors in 1Q 2018. This will end Samsung’s continued reign as market leader in the overall mobile handset market,” he added.

He suggested that Samsung should consider the introduction of 4G feature phones, joining the AndroidGo platform and handset bundling deals with telcos to come back into the numbers game.


Despite a loss of overall market share due to the Jiophone, Samsung continued to hold on to its share in the smartphone market. However, here too, it continued to be second to Xiaomi.

In the Smartphone segment, Xiaomi had a 27% market share, followed by Samsung with a 25% share.

Surprisingly, the third biggest brand by smartphone shipments was Lava with an 8% share, edging out Chinese brands such as Oppo and Vivo.

“In January 2017, Oppo was one of the top four smartphone brands in India with 9% market share. This January, it has moved out of the smartphone leaderboard, ending with a market share of only 4%.” said Narinder Kumar, an analyst at CMR.