Time to consider 2nd hand devices, amid falling rupee

The Indian rupee hit an all time new low of 65 against the US Dollar. This affects the cost of some consumer goods in India, and smartphones are no exception. Perhaps it's a good time to start considering second hand devices.
Written by Nitin Puri, Contributor

Currency fluctuations generally don't affect companies such as Apple or BlackBerry, as they set their prices well in advance, planning for fluctuations too. In fact, Apple only prices its products once. I can't deny this isn't true, as I haven't seen the prices for Apple products going on sale or being heavily discounted, unless they are being replaced by newer models or there is a trade-in deal.

Unfortunately, the Indian mobile manufacturers such as Karbonn, Lava, Maxx Mobile, and Micromax, end up passing on the difference to consumers a lot sooner than anticipated, and usually on both entry level and mid level devices, due to the intense competition.

Time to consider 2nd hand devices, amid falling rupee.

The reason for this is because they purchase the parts to assemble their phones India, in US dollars, from China. These four companies make up 18 per cent of the mobile devices sold in India, and prices have already been raised 10 to 12 percent, with an additional 5 to 10 percent price hike on the horizon. Now all of a sudden the cost of an entry level phone in India isn't as affordable as it once was, and consumers will most likely save up and spend more for a high end device instead.

That alone can easily take at least one, if not two months now with the sliding Indian rupee, based on average salaries for full-time working Indians in the workforce. Generally speaking from what I've seen, working professionals still prefer their Apple or BlackBerry products, versus Indian devices. Instead, the Indian devices are hugely popular with the youth, those in high school or post-secondary. But again, where are they now going to get the money to purchase the entry level and mid level devices that have had their prices raised twice already, and going for a third price correction?

If anything, now is probably the best time for consumers, either first time buyers or people looking for something different, to start considering second hand mobile devices instead. They can be easily bought online and in the various bazaars and markets across India. Of course, there's no guarantee of how long the device will last, but that's a risk with anything bought second hand. The flip side is that for most consumers, a device that is only 6 to 12 months old will most likely have all the features they are looking for, and when on contrast to purchasing a brand new device, a second hand device would definitely look more appealing.

If I had to option to purchase a second hand Apple iPhone4 or BlackBerry Q10 at half the price of a brand new one, and assuming it's in decent condition as a second hand device, I would buy one, no doubt about it. If you look at the resale value of devices to begin with, they depreciate rapidly within one year to begin with. So why not buy a device at half price? Who is really going to know its second hand, unless you go and tell everyone, right?

Things to check

If you're considering purchasing a second device, obviously there are some quick things to look out for. In addition to doing a visual check to make sure there are no dents, make sure all the components and pieces are there and intact. You will also want to check the screen for scratches and cracks. Use the functional keyboard and touch screen to make sure they work as required. Furthermore, examine the camera and any other special features to make sure they work properly. Finally, check the battery source and make sure there is no liquid damage to the device.

Of course another option which I have yet to see provided by an Indian mobile operator is signing customers for a 2 or 3 year contract, providing them with a subsidized device, and then offering either free upgrades for devices or paying a small amount for a new device, while also retaining the customer for an additional 2 or 3 year contract. This has been the norm for mobile operators in North America, with the only catch being that the device is locked to that mobile operator’s network. That's one issue Indian consumers might have: locked devices.

With mobile number portability, which is taking the same mobile number to a different mobile operator in India, having a locked device would be challenge. Of course, it's not hard to unlock a device by visiting a store that specializes in doing so. The risk is that unlocking a phone can potentially damage the device, resulting in a loss of both personal data and application use.

So which is better: second hand devices or subsidized devices by Indian mobile operators? Well, the latter is unavailable at the moment, so your only option is to look for second hand devices. And where do you look? Shopping and comparing online is the best place, and sites such as quickr, OLX, and of course, eBay India, are a few good places to start. 

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