Adding to the cart: Flipkart to launch Billion, its own smartphone

Flipkart, the country's largest e-commerce marketplace, is launching its own smartphone on Wednesday.

On Thursday, the company put a 'teaser' of the device on its website, showing features such as dual cameras, fast charging and unlimited cloud storage. The phone will be launched under the Billion brand and is named Capture+. Flipkart also boasted a service network that spans 130 cities.

The teaser did not disclose the price. 

Unlike major rival Amazon’s attempt at building a smartphone, which tried to compete directly with the likes of Apple’s iPhone, Flipkart is largely targeting the mid-range smartphone market. The similarity between the two companies is that both are targeting the country's most voluminous smartphone segment. 

While iPhones were and are still among the best-selling smartphones in the US, prompting Amazon to go after that market, those costing between Rs 10,000 and Rs 13,000 make the largest chunk of smartphones sold online in India. What Flipkart will be aiming to do differently is actually sell some of its devices.

Launched in July 2014, Amazon’s Fire Phone was among the biggest failures in the company’s history. After spending years in research and spending millions to develop, sales never took off. Largely due to extremely experimental features that failed to catch the public fancy, which was in tune with the features of an iPhone, a Samsung Galaxy device, or a Google Nexus.

The firm has not revealed detailed specifications. The company seems to have put together a device with features customers search for the most on its platform when buying other phones, at a price point where it sees most of its action. 

With smartphones continuing to drive over 50 per cent of the sales on its platform, these seem a category Flipkart can’t ignore. Having its own device will allow the company to actually earn profits from a segment that’s famously a money loser for all e-commerce companies in India, owing to skinny margins and an over-reliance on deals and discounts.

However, it is to be seen if Flipkart can compete in a market so highly contested by established brands such as Xiaomi, Samsung, Motorola, Oppo and Vivo, to name a few of the larger manufacturers. Many of these have exclusive tie-ups with Flipkart; the e-tailer runs the risk of cannibalising brands which drive a massive chunk of its earnings.

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