Come July and Xiaomi will introduce another smartphone for the Indian market. This might not seem exciting, given that Xiaomi and its rivals appear to be launching a smartphone a day. But the Redmi K20 series will definitely be one of the most awaited phones from the brand, not because of the specifications that Redmi K20 Pro and K20 sport or the claims, which will be made about the performance and camera, but given what this series represents.
Redmi K20 Pro is being pitched as ‘flagship killer 2.0’ and there’s no subtlety with which brand Xiaomi is rolling out their new launch. The buzz on Twitter and YouTube, and even with their offline hoardings, clearly shows that the Redmi K20 Pro will take on the OnePlus 7 Pro.
When OnePlus first came on the scene it was pitched as a ‘flagship killer’, and while top end flagships are still very alive (despite crossing the $1000 price mark), OnePlus’ phones now occupy the second spot in the premium segment in India.
In fact, according to Counterpoint Research, OnePlus is globally among the top five brands in the premium segment, though only 2 per cent share and steadily growing in Western Europe. In India, the OnePlus 6T has remained the best-selling premium smartphone in the first quarter of 2019, according to Counterpoint. Redmi and Xiaomi will be hoping to make some dent here with their K20 series.
This also explains the urgency for Xiaomi’s Redmi K20 Pro and Redmi K20, which will cross into the premium segment for the first time. When I say first, I am referring to the Redmi brand here, and not other ‘premium’ phones that Xiaomi has introduced in India like Mi 5, Mi Mix 2 and Poco F1 under its sub-brand.
Redmi K20 represents many firsts. No, Redmi phone has come with a top of the line Qualcomm 800 series processor in India. Redmi K20 Pro has the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 855. Globally, the first Redmi phone to come with a triple camera, the K20 series has a pop-up selfie camera and a radical design change thanks to the notchless, bezel-less display. It also sports an in-display fingerprint sensor, which is another first for the Redmi series.
All of this would make it seem like OnePlus should be very worried about this Redmi K20 Pro. But there are several factors where Redmi K20 Pro will have to deliver before it can prove itself as the ‘flagship killer 2.0’.
Xiaomi’s premium phones have rarely made a mark in India. The Mi 5 came with excellent specifications on paper, but didn’t quite deliver the performance. The Mi Mix 2, while a premium phone with an innovative design, did not have the camera to take on any flagship. The Poco F1 did well in the above Rs 15,000 segment, according to IDC numbers shared by Xiaomi, but OnePlus is not playing in that segment.
The Redmi K20 series has its task cut out. First and foremost, the camera really needs to pack a punch. This is not just about sporting bigger sensors, but getting the software right. Even OnePlus has pushed out so many updates trying to improve the camera performance of its flagship phone.
A ‘good’ camera won’t be enough. The camera performance on most phones has reached a certain level of ‘good’. It will need to be exceptional to convince Redmi fans that they should pay the extra price for the new phone. In my view, the standard for the smartphone camera is still being set by flagships like the Pixel 3, iPhone XS, Huawei P30 Pro and Galaxy S10.
Xiaomi will have to get the software right as well on K20 series. There’s the tricky issue of updates. OnePlus has been quite steady in providing regular updates, especially to the next level of Android. OnePlus phones, right from OP5 to the recent OnePlus 7 series, offer a rather smooth software experience and that’s something Xiaomi still has to learn from. Redmi K20 Pro’s updates will need to be quicker to justify the flagship tag and the company has been slower on this front, if one goes by the past records.
There’s no doubt that Redmi K20 series is an important one for the brand. It will be the first time that the brand jumps into a higher price bracket, and it is not easy to do. It is certainly not the volume driver in India, at least not right now.
Xiaomi realises better than anyone else that it needs to establish itself beyond the budget segment in India, where it continues to produce stellar and value-for-money products. But the premium segment or ‘prestige’ phones as some companies like to call them is where the real value lies and the company will be hoping that the Redmi K20 Pro is the phone that finally delivers the punch for them.