Local smartphone brands grow in China

27 July 2012

BEIJING: Local brands are playing an increasingly prominent role in China's smartphone market, where price remains one of the key drivers shaping consumer purchase behaviour.

Samsung, the Korean multinational, sold 2m such devices during April 2012, giving it a 22.8% share overall, according to estimates from Sino Market Research, the insights provider.

Four indigenous firms came next in the rankings. Coolpad saw volume purchases rates reach 1bn gadgets, thus taking 11.2% of the category. Huawei was in third on 997,000, or 10.9% of sales.

Completing the top five were Lenovo, which shifted 932,000 handsets, and ZTE, on 848,000. These companies claimed 10.2% and 9.3% of the market in turn.

Apple occupied sixth spot, clocking up 779,000 sales of the iPhone, or 8.5% of the total. Motorola was some way further back on 378,000, while Nokia logged 360,000, HTC registered 258,000 and Hisense posted 233,000.

Henry Lin, chairman and co-chief executive of NQ Mobile, the world's biggest mobile security group, argued the main advantage possessed by domestic manufacturers was their competitiveness on cost.

"Chinese smartphone makers have managed to dominate the low- and middle-end market over the past several years, but large numbers of buyers are price-sensitive and only willing to spend a little money in purchasing mobile phones," he told the China Daily.

However, Lin added, the need to offer low prices has restricted net income levels. He therefore suggested that while Apple's volume share was in single digits, "it took more than 80% percent of the profits".

Several new entrants are also attempting to disrupt the market still further. Baidu, the online search giant, for example, has formed a tie-up with Sichuan Changhong Electric to roll out a smartphone commanding a modest RMB900.

Alibaba, the ecommerce pioneer, has similarly launched its own device, priced at RMB999, roughly equivalent to a Bluetooth earpiece for the iPhone.

Elsewhere, Qihoo and Shanda Interactive Entertainment, two more online operators, are ramping up their capabilities in this area.

"China has great potential for generating about 1bn smartphone users over the next several years," said Lin. "The silver bullet for Chinese competitors to survive is to find a segment of the market and make specialised devices for that particular sector."

Data sourced from China Daily; additional content by Warc staff