On October 25, when my family was sharing photos and videos via WeChat, my mother-in-law's smartphone went down all of a sudden. She tried many times to restart it, but failed.
The urgent task to buy a new one for her fell on me. She wanted a reasonably priced phone that featured a camera that was as good as possible and an operation system that ran smoothly.
All possible choices quickly narrowed down to a Huawei Honor 7 smart phone.
The phone arrived the next morning from a courier of JD, an online retail platform , after I ordered the previous night. It was China speed, I guess.
The phone astonished us as it was more than what she wanted.
She could actually talk with this US$343.9 (S$485) phone, ask various questions, such as how to go to the Badachu park in South Beijing from our home in North Beijing. It surprised her as the solution provided by the phone was exactly the same as the solution I found by typing and searching in Baidu.
When she forgot where she had put the phone, she could get a response from it by simply saying "Where are you, little Seven?"
Every time she wanted to unlock the phone, all she needed to do was to press the phone with her finger, which made her feel that it was really "her" phone.
All these were brand new thing for a 60-years-old grandma. And, to be frank, also new for me, as this was achieved by a "Chinese-brand phone", not an expensive device like an iPhone.
Since a Chinese-brand smartphone could bring so much fun without costing the buyer "a kidney", I decided to buy a new phone for my father-in-law. Although the one he was using had a broken display screen, he was reluctant to "let it go". In fact, all the phones he had used were the last-generation phones of us, which we stopped using because they were too out of date.
The first that attracted our attention was Nubia, which claimed its phones could be used as "single-lens reflex cameras" and could even be used to shoot stars. The three-year company also said its Nubia Z9 Mini Elite had an eye-scan encryption function, which was inviting enough.
When I was trying to order it on JD, I found there were more than 300,000 soon-to-be buyers like me and what we could do was to pre-order and wait until JD finally got the products.
The 1,499 yuan phone came on the night of Nov 4, but stayed at our home for a short time.
My father-in-law said he disliked the phone and wanted to return it as he found colors in the photos taken by this Nubia phone were different from actual colors and the eye-scanning capacity turned out to be useless for him as it can only be applied to encrypt applications, not the whole phone.
The JD delivery guy came to pick up the phone and JD refunded me the second day. Thank you JD.
Usually returning goods once purchased is a cumbersome process. But in this case returning the device was a breeze, the best ever experience.
Half a month later, a post-sales woman called me and asked me in a very soft voice why I had returned the Nubia phone. I explained and she said "We will improve our products."
At last, my father-in-law chose a Huawei Honor 7i smart phone, because it, with a rotating camera, was really different and my mother-in-law's phone really made a good impression on him.
The phone-buying story, which lasted for more than 20 days and finally came to an end, has greatly enriched my whole family's understanding of the smart phone industry in China.
But what is intriguing enough is that both the grandma and the grandpa are not the targeted consumers of these two types of smart phone, who are assumed to be youngsters in favour of "new, cool, fabulous" things, according to the advertisements of Huawei.
It happened that the Nov 11 shopping festival created by Alibaba but used by all online retailers to promote shopping, also took place when we were "buying" phones.
When you check the top 10 merchants on Tmall, Alibaba's B2C platform ,on the shopping spree day, you could find six were smartphone vendors or dealers, including LeTV, Meizu, Huawei and Xiaomi.
Xiaomi, the rising star in the smartphone industry, defended its crown as the top seller by raking in 1.25 billion yuan on this single day. Its Redmi Note 2, priced at 699 yuan only on that day, was the best-seller among all smartphones.
Although there are no specific demographic data on who bought these phones, I guess, papas, nannies, migrant workers, farmers and many others, who were traditionally assumed as late adopters or even laggards of innovative products, were among them.
One day, when I was trying to put on my first-generation Mi Band 1, a step and sleep tracker produced by a Xiaomi eco-system company, my mother-in-law asked what that was.
I told her and said this one was old as the second-generation has already come to the market.
"The Mi Band 1s could monitor your heart rates." I said.
"How much is that?"
"Ninety-nine yuan." " Jawbone's UP3, a similar one, retails at $179.99," I added.
"Oh, really? I want one."
"A band like this that can track my blood pressure would be better," she said.
Although I wasn't sure, I said," what you want is not in the market now."
"It does not matter, I can wait."