High demand for cheap gadgets

Smartphone and tablet sales have been up since January 2021

by NUR HANANI AZMAN / pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

HOME-BASED teaching and learning (PdPR) for students nationwide has surged parents’ demand for cheap smartphones, tablets and laptops for their children.

Checks by The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) found that consumers are not splurging on these gadgets. They look for devices just within their budget or opt for second-hands.

“Is there a cheaper option?” “What is the storage size for this device?” “Do you accept trade-in?”

These are among the common questions asked by customers before deciding on a purchase.

A gadget shop salesperson who requested anonymity said smartphone and tablet sales have been up since January 2021.

“The bestseller now is Xiaomi Redmi 9A six-inch touchscreen display (RM399) and Samsung Galaxy Tab A eight-inch (RM599). These are among the cheaper options and many buyers — especially parents — look for these.

“I suggest parents with more than one child to buy two phones rather than share one between each other because this could lead to a poor battery life,” TMR was told.

Asked whether there has been any price hike, the salesperson said electronic products are under controlled prices, therefore, they are not allowed to increase the prices.

“However, we have heard from customers that some shops or resellers are selling smartphones and tablets above the price guideline,” said the salesperson who for now is limiting the purchase of three devices per customer.

National Tech Association of Malaysia chairman Danny Lee said in general, the association not seen a marked increase in prices.

He said the information and communications technology retail landscape is rife with competition from both brick-and-mortar physical stores and online platforms.

“There may be increase or decrease in prices, but that would be due to the product’s life cycle and not specific to the pandemic.

“The continuous technology innovation in all tech products today is mostly equipped with tightened security, increased quality and long-term use, extended warranty and optional protective accessories that have increased the value of the product. Therefore, if at all there is a price increase, it is a reflection of all the extra quality features the product offers,” he told TMR.

Lee said laptops, tablets and high-speed Internet services have been in demand since the work from home (WFH) ruling and online learning started last year.

“At the same time, both the government and independent bodies have been working together to assist the B40 (bottom 40%) group and those who qualify.

“The assistance is in terms of funding, products and Internet connection.

“We also see a demand for used and second-hand devices equipped with basic Internet and productivity tools for online learning,” he explained.

In a statement recently, Shopee regional MD Ian Ho also said parents have been on the lookout for bundle deals or add-on deals by brands and retailers on the platform to enjoy more savings.

“Since the online learning session started in mid-2020, we noticed that consumer gadgets such as laptops, monitors, printers and many more that were suited for home-based learning or WFH were flying off the virtual shelves.

“Besides the push factor such as great deals during major shopping festivals, we also noted that the demand for PC and gadget for e-learning grew dramatically this round of Movement Control Order (MCO),” he said.

Items such as laptops, smartphones, tablets, network components, keyboards, printers and audio systems saw over 550,000 units sold on Shopee within the first five days of MCO 2.0, marking a growth of 4.5 times compared to the first five days of MCO 1.0.

For private sector employer Johanna Sobrey, however, PdPR is burning holes inside parents’ pockets as they not only need to provide a phone, laptop, or headphones, but also wireless connectivity printers.

“For MCO 2.0, we bought a tablet for our Standard 1 daughter and two pairs of Bluetooth headphones so we can help her if she does not understand the teacher,” she told TMR.

A secondary school teacher, who also wished to remain anonymous, said sometimes students are not able to refer to their digital textbooks and follow the class on Google Meet simultaneously.

“PdPR sessions get a bit complicated when students cannot check their digital textbook and look at the teacher’s presentation at the same time.

“Majority of students use handphones and not many of them can afford a laptop or tablet,” the teacher told TMR.