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Chinese smartphones make a splash

News, 25 February 2016

BEIJING/BARCELONA: China's smartphone manufacturers have made a splash at this week's Mobile World Congress, with high-spec low cost-models that are likely to prove attractive to many consumers beyond their home market.

"The Chinese smartphone vendors have a very unique feature – it is the price," said Shu On Kwok, editor of AndroidPIT, a website that tracks Android developments. "You get the same features as an LG or a Samsung smartphone has hardware-wise, but for a lower price," he told the Shanghai Daily.

The newspaper highlighted the price differential – a good Chinese smartphone costs less than $200 compared to around $650 for an iPhone or top-end Samsung Galaxy – while also observing that phone innovation had slowed so that the differences between these products could now seem marginal to buyers.

Melissa Chau, senior research manager at IDC, noted that Chinese companies have been rapidly catching up on phone design and quality. "Samsung was a fast follower in terms of innovation," she said. "These Chinese players, they are even faster."

And with yesterday's launch of the Xiaomi Mi 5 in a joint presentation in Beijing and Barcelona, some observers are now saying that this Chinese player shouldn't be seen as a follower.

An effusive TechCrunch declared: "Xiaomi is no longer a company that looks to others for inspiration. Xiaomi is no longer an upstart, it's a global leader … and the new Mi 5 has the goods to be a trendsetting device."

The new device will initially be available in China and India, followed by "other global markets", raising the possibility it may venture into Europe and/or North America for the first time, a step that would greatly add to the pressure on market leaders Apple and Samsung. Huawei is also eyeing up the European and US markets.

Neil Mawston, an analyst at Strategy Analytics, pointed out that that the mobile market had always changed – Siemens, for example, once made phones but stopped – and was now experiencing a swing from developed to developing markets.

"So, more Chinese brands. More Indian brands. And I think potentially also more African brands in the future as well," he told CRI.

Data sourced from Shanghai Daily, TechCrunch, CRI; additional content by Warc staff