Oppo A96 and the death of the Midrange segment

I want to talk about Oppo A96 and the death of the Midrange segment. I think I mentioned it to Ken (a reader) the other day and someone messaged me on Friday to take a look at the Oppo A96 and I was appalled.

I’d love to make a video on this but let’s be honest, few of us watch commentary videos. It’s why tech YouTubers translate to phone reviews in Nigeria or should I say paid advertisements. The usual suspects have already started “reviewing” (😒) the A96.

And I’m not surprised that all of them have failed to call the price into question. I’ll do the video anyway. I guess. I do not expect plenty of views from Nigerians. I’ve gotta set my sights further afield. I digress.

But I think it is sad that phone review is now the byword for tech YouTubers. I mean I know an excellent mobile photographer who did magic with the MiA3 and Redmi 9T, who completely redirected his channel to phone review and now it’s stagnant.


Read: Smartphone naming categories

The Midrange segment

So the Midrange market.

Generally, as everyone should know, by now, the Midrange segment is the region of phones that lie in between the Entry level phones and the flagship phones.

In the old days, everyone was fighting for the Flagship spots. At least until the Chinese companies showed up with cheap phones.

Those guys singlehandedly saved us from the clutches of the Apples, Samsungs, and Blackberries of this world. They created the whole market strata that we now live in.

  • Flagship killers
  • Premium midrange
  • Upper midrange
  • Lower midrange
  • Budget

None of these classifications existed in the not-so-distant past. It’s either you were getting a new flagship or any of the older phones that came before it.

But these new market classifications came and we were all the better for it. Phone prices became more affordable and SoC vendors took the hint. They started making market-specific SoCs for each of these categories.

As if the 600 series wasn’t enough, Qualcomm went further to create the 700 series and tried to bridge the gap between the 800 and 600 series.

MediaTek didn’t slack and soon pushed the G90 series to compete with the 700 series.

Flagships? What flagships? Midrangers were all the rage and they were good. New chipsets were being released quarterly. So fast that I lost count.

The change

Then something happened. Something terrible happened. Lots of industry commentators have ascribed it to the coronavirus pandemic, global chip shortage, and financial issues.

Whilst I strongly believed it for a while, my perspective is changing. Throughout the so-called global chip shortage period, Mediatek kept churning out SoCs like the G88, G95, and G96. Why did the chip shortage not restrict them?

This is where we enter the realm of pure speculation on my part. From recent market happenings, it is clear that both chipset vendors and smartphone OEMs have abandoned the Midrange battlefield.

Qualcomm feels like it has lost ground on Apple by dabbling into the Midrange market. With the new computing power offered by ARMv9, they feel that they have a good chance of making up that ground.

MediaTek has for the first time, successfully clashed heads with the big boys. It has a spot at the flagship table and intends to keep its spot.

Smartphone OEMs like Xiaomi, Samsung, Oppo, Vivo, Realme, etc. have successfully carved out the global Midrange market segment amongst themselves. This suffocated fledgling companies like Gionee, Blueboo, Doogee, Umidigi, Leagoo, and co out of real contention.

The lines have been drawn and carved up. Everyone knows their place. The Midrange market has been conquered. There’s nothing left to fight for.

Thus the erstwhile hibernating flagship market is up for contention. Xiaomi hinted at a challenge with the Mi 10 Ultra and followed up with a real statement in the Mi 11 Ultra. Everyone else has sat up and they’re ready for the challenge.

The fate of the Midrange market

So where does that leave the Midrange market? With no new true Midrange SoCs coming, and companies focusing on the high-end market…

The three options left are:

  1. Reuse current or old midrange SoCs
  2. Bring a premium Midrange/flagship killer down to the Midrange or
  3. Bring up a budget SoC to the Midrange.

As a result, SD680 has become popular all of a sudden. That’s what everyone seems to be using. Samsung is advertising Helio P35s as midrangers. Xiaomi is bringing Dimensity chipsets down to the upper and lower midrange.

The knock-on effects

The effects of these choices are that:

1. We’re going to be paying more for less if they use SoCs like P35, G88 and SD680


2. The Midrange segment will no longer be affordable if Dimensity 920, SD768 or Exynos 1280 are all brought down to the Midrange

The effects are already here. Midrangers are no longer affordable. Let’s call a spade a spade.

Oppo A96 and the death of the Midrange segment

But it is in the middle of all this that the Oppo A96 pops up.

The Oppo A96’s specs are

  • SoC: SD 680
  • Display: IPS LCD FHD+ with 90Hz
  • Camera: dual 50MP JN1 + 2MP depth
  • Battery: 5000mAh
  • Price: 155k+

What are the reasons that Oppo and their Nigerian YouTube cronies are putting out as an excuse for this atrocity?

RAM and storage space? The storage options are

  • 8/128GB
  • 8/256GB

We know Oppo’s phones are overpriced but this is going too far. If this phone succeeds, it’s going to have a terrible ripple effect on the prices of phones.

Sometimes we scream and blame the Naira but Xiaomi put out the RN11, R10 5G and R10C for way less. Well, now watch as their prices will shoot up.

In conclusion

It seems like those dark days of 2012 to 2015 are upon us once more. I certainly hope not. I pray not. But this is the reality of things on the ground.

If you have the money to buy a phone, do not hesitate. If you have a good phone, take excellent care of it. Put on your seatbelts. We seem to be in for a bumpy ride.

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