As per market research firm Counterpoint Research, close to 200 million 4G feature phones are to be potentially sold in India in the next five years, while the smartphone market growth is likely to slow down.
"In the process, we expect the smartphone market growth to slow down as the laggard feature phone users who eventually would have purchased a smartphone will instead move to a 4G feature phone," the report said. Adding that 4G feature phones will be a good interim boost for operators to migrate users from 2G to 4G networks.
The report notes that in markets like India, operators such as Reliance Jio are attracting lots of rural 2G users to jump onto their 4G network by offering free unlimited VoLTE calls.
"More than 400 million feature phones were sold globally in 2016 and we saw smartphone market growth slow down to 3 percent YoY, portraying that the easy days of smartphone growth are over. The smartphone growth slowing down and the feature phone decline slowing down is the polarization of market in terms of technology as well as the user base."
"This is making a case for the rise of 4G capable feature phones with the core value proposition being VoLTE calls and move the users to the cost-efficient 4G networks. We estimate more than half a billion 4G capable feature phones will be sold over the next five years, a 'big short-term opportunity' for players in the mobile industry," report estimates.
It says that close to 60 million units of 4G capable feature phones could ship this year globally from almost a million units last year with India potentially contributing to almost half of that total in 2017.
In terms of hardware revenues, it's a $6 billion opportunity cumulatively over the next five years in India alone.
Chipset brands such as Qualcomm with its latest Qualcomm 205 platform specially designed for 4G LTE Feature Phones is poised to drive growth starting end of Q2 2017.
Key players to watch out in this segment are Micromax, itel, Lava, Jio, Nokia and so forth, the report added.