Apple, Samsung and Huawei have long been mainstays on the global smartphone leaderboard, but in recent years there’s been a string of new players. Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo might sound unfamiliar to most Americans, outside a tech-savvy bubble, but they’re right up there with the world’s top brands.
While Samsung wears the crown as the world’s largest smartphone company and Apple still pulls in the most profit, Chinese phone makers have ascended rapidly worldwide and are displaying resilience amid the coronavirus pandemic. Huawei surpassed Apple to become the world’s second largest seller of smartphones last year, achieving this coveted milestone without selling any phones in the US, and briefly eclipsed Samsung in April. A Shenzhen-based phone company, Transsion, meanwhile, has overtaken Samsung as the No. 1 phone supplier in Africa since its launch there in 2018.
“Chinese smartphone makers have captured around 40% of the global market share, showing that Chinese firms are increasingly capable of building consumer products with global appeal.” said Dan Wang, technology analyst at Gavekal Dragonomics, a research firm.
In addition to enticing shoppers around the world to buy their handsets, Chinese vendors have worked hard to shed the reputation that they’re merely cheap copycats — they’re starting to drive innovations such as foldable designs or pop-up cameras, which offer a window into the future of smartphone technology. Royole, a Shenzhen-based company, unveiled the world’s first flexible smartphone, beating Samsung to the punch, although the South Korean electronics giant is often mistakenly credited for it. Nevermind that it was a spectacular failure. Xiaomi, meanwhile, unveiled the first trifold foldable phone that much of the world had ever laid eyes on. Vivo and Meizu both made waves when they released phones without a single physical button and almost no ports.
Along with these innovative designs, Chinese phone brands are increasingly churning out high-end phones and pushing price boundaries, aiming to transcend their budget phone image and compete with the likes of Samsung and Apple after focusing on the budget or entry level market for years. Critics say they still have a long way to go.
“These competitive pressures drive changes in pricing, innovation and marketing, but I’m not convinced that Chinese vendors, aside from Huawei previously, pose a significant threat to Apple’s brand,” said Tuong Huy Nguyen, senior principal analyst at Gartner. “Apple is a high-end brand and an ecosystem-driven experience.”
To be fair, China’s smartphone industry has witnessed its fair share of failures along with the meteoric rise of companies like Huawei and Xiaomi as the smartphone market consolidates. Gionee, a Shenzhen-based manufacturer that was among the first Chinese firms to break into the lucrative Indian market, went bust last year. There was also Vsun, a Chinese contract manufacturer that laid off all its employees on the same day it filed for bankruptcy in May last year. Small players have been squeezed even tighter amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has resulted in Chinese phone makers refocusing their efforts back to their home market, according to industry analysts.
But the rapid emergence of China’s phone makers on the global stage underscores the country’s rising technological prowess. It comes as Beijing seeks to catch up and eventually overtake the US as the global technological leader across 10 high-tech sectors including robotics, semiconductors and even electric vehicles, as part of Chinese President Xi Jin Ping’s ambitious master plan known as Made in China 2025. It’s this very plan that fueled the costly trade war between Washington and Beijing. In May, Beijing unveiled a follow-up plan that details China’s involvement in setting the standards for key tech like 5G.
Still, some Chinese phone makers are poised to gain market share from Apple and Samsung in the second quarter despite the coronavirus pandemic, which has ravaged the global economy and disrupted supply chains, according to a TrendForce report published in April.
But who are the key players? The following is a breakdown of all of the Chinese phone makers you should know, according to how recognizable they are in the US………..Read More>>