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Behind realme’s unstoppable smartphone cycle: Go big or go home

How does the company iterate so fast and what's its secret recipe for growth? We find out.

Published onOctober 14, 2019

realme XT on table showing white gradient

realme was a tiny seed sown by OPPO which sprouted into a full-fledged smartphone powerhouse within one year of becoming independent. Conceptualised by former OPPO VP, Sky Li, realme was born to capture the online smartphone space in some of the most competitive and emerging markets in the world like India, China, Indonesia, and Singapore. OPPO, on the other hand, was to remain focussed on the offline retail space.

realme clocked 848% growth in shipments in its first year

It is hard to fathom that in just a span of a year and a few months, realme has managed to launch SKUs in the double digits — 17 to be exact, and in 20 markets across the world. The company also recently clocked in 10 million users and entered the global top 10 smartphone OEM list with a phenomenal 848% year-on-year growth in shipments.

This unprecedented growth of the fairly new smartphone company comes at the back of its surprisingly fast go-to-market strategy and its uniquely positioned products. “Giving the best in class product options in every single price segment is one of our core philosophies,” realme India head, Madhav Sheth tells Android Authority.

Just how fast is realme?

realme branding on realme 5 and 5 Pro

How is the company able to iterate products with such speed? Sheth tells us that it is partially because of ultra-fast turn-around time. “From thoughts to launch, I would say it will be around 90 to 120 days.” This, says the realme executive, is because of the company’s young and aggressive team.

It’s also because realme still has considerable support from Oppo. It may no longer be a sub-brand of OPPO, but the two companies share the same parent organization — BBK Electronics. As a result, realme and OPPO still share the same DNA. From its reliance on Color OS (with some minor tweaks) to Super VOOC fast charging, realme has access to established technologies thanks to its pedigree. This is also a big reason the company is able to create products with speed.

“We do share lots of resources, such as production, quality control and more. But we also have our own team working on features which realme users want,” says Sheth.

Good, better, best

realme XT 64MP camera

From the realme 1 to the realme XT, the company has maintained its founding vision of creating smartphones ranging from the budget to the mid-range segment.

With each upgrade, realme attempts to bring more to the table. Specs, features and performance improve with each new phone. The only common qualms we’ve had with all realme devices to date surround camera performance and bloatware.

64MP realme XT vs 40MP HUAWEI P30 Pro: The hi-res camera showdown
HUAWEI P30 Pro vs realme XT camera

realme has also always maintained a trendy design profile on its devices with an interesting play of color and effects on the back panel of its phones. In a bid to attract young buyers, the phones are now shedding their cheap polycarbonate build (realme 5, 5Pro) in favor of a more premium glass back and metal design (realme X, XT).

“We saw that there was a huge gap in online offerings. There were people looking for more choices. There were only one or two brands at play. After the exit of Lenovo and Motorola, their (market) shares fell down, I don’t know for what reason, there was huge scope between the number one and number two players,” Sheth tells us.

More options are the backbone of realme’s business and as a result it’s hard to keep up with the company’s product cycle. But if any brand has truly stepped in Xiaomi’s territory, it’s realme.

A realme phone for everyone!

realme 3i in hand showing back
realme phones could one day cost up to $600

“We define users into entry-level, mid-level, premium-mid level, and also a premium segment,” says Sheth. Until now, realme has done a notable job of launching smartphones under $300, but the company is not stopping there.

As its portfolio grows and products become more premium, realme phones could one day cost up to $600. “It was our goal to launch phone between Rs 5,000 (~$70) and Rs 20,000 (~$280) within one year and we have been able to do so,” says Sheth. Going forward, realme wants to be present in “every single segment” from “$100 to $600,” says Sheth. OnePlus better watch its back.

Clearly, realme has hit the ground running and by the looks of it, the company will soon take leaps of faith in previously unexplored price segments. The only concern here is that realme has largely remained successful this past year thanks to its affordable smartphones. Will the premium category be as kind to realme? We’ll have to wait and see.

What do you think of realme phones? Do you think the company should grow its portfolio to include ultra premium smartphone or stick to its niche of pocket-friendly devices? Let us know in the comments section below.

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