Just how secure are Apple and Samsung these days? With the proliferation of new Chinese smartphone brands flooding the market, how long would it be before their positions as top smartphone brands are taken away?

If one were to list the top global smartphone brands, brands such as  Apple, Samsung, Huawei, OPPO, Xiaomi, and Vivo come to mind.

Of these brands, nearly 90% are new Chinese smartphone makers that have recently entered the market. These brands are narrowing the gap between the top two spots traditionally dominated by Samsung and Apple in the global smartphone market.

Recently, the global provider of market intelligence on technology industries TrendForce had forecasted that the top  4 Chinese smartphone brands – Huawei, Xiaomi, OPPO and Vivo – will achieve roughly 40% of the global market share for the year in production volume alone.

Collectively, these top 4 Chinese makers hold a higher market share over Samsung and Apple, which hold a collective 33% of the global market share.

In addition, TrendForce also predicts Huawei will soon overtake Apple to become world’s second largest smartphone maker this year amid the downtrend in global smartphone production volume.

In fact, Huawei has already leapfrogged Apple to second place in global shipments since the second quarter of 2018.

Eyeing the Overseas Markets

Now that it has surpassed Apple, will Huawei overtake Samsung to become the world’s No. 1 smartphone maker? Will these Chinese brands list in the Top 3 largest smartphone makers in the future?

As the Chinese smartphone makers grow larger, they’re exploring their overseas opportunities aggressively due to the saturation of the local Chinese smartphone market.

Their focus has shifted to the Indian and European markets. For instance, Huawei has successfully presented its brand in East Europe with its Honor models.

If the Chinese brands can establish a firm footing with the overseas markets, the end result will be an even bigger market share in the global industry.

Sponsorship Marketing: Increase Brand Awareness

One of the reasons that the Chinese smartphone brands are able to increase their market share is due to their unique marketing strategy.

A great example is OPPO and Vivo which aggressively promoted their brands through sponsorship of famous variety TV shows. In addition to creating awareness with the public, the company had positioned itself to connect seamlessly with the public through celebrity endorsements.

OPPO had not only adopted the same strategy in China but India and Vietnam. They made a sponsorship to India’s topmost reality TV show – Bigg Boss, and one of Vietnam’s top-rated reality shows – The Face Vietnam.

On the other hand, Vivo is also sponsoring various TV shows in China, including ‘Happy Camp’, one of the local most popular TV shows. Currently, about 70% of Vivo’s revenue is still generated from the Chinese market.

In order to enhance its international popularity, it had signed a six-year sponsorship agreement with FIFA World Cup.



Vivo sponsoring for a variety show called “Happy Camp” (快乐大本营).

Xiaomi: Paying Off An Online-only Gambit

Xiaomi has made itself into a household name in China and Asia market in just 2, 3 years.

How a company go from selling its phones online at its inception to a notable household name in such a short time is nothing short of astounding. The strategy paid off handsomely as Xiaomi was able to export their phones to its new markets, even into challenging emerging nations across Southeast Asia without incurring any of the usual expansion cost associated with brick and mortar stores.

Within five months of its debut in July 2014, Xiaomi had become the fifth largest smartphone company, purely on the strength of its online presence.

Although Xiaomi has established service centres, they’re not physical stores; it’s very much secondary to its e-commerce core concepts.

As the company adopted an online-only sales model, the company is able to sell its smartphones at very attractive prices. As the smartphone maker grows larger, its expansion into the offline market is made through partnerships with local retailers.

Huawei: Pushing the Pace of Innovation

Innovation is the core of any successful company or brand and Huawei has understood that concept implicitly. It is the only Chinese company that has been able to design its own chips for mass production in mobile handsets.

On August 31 last year, they unveiled the Kirin 980 smartphone chip, designed to double processing power for its AI applications. This newly launched chip is the feature in its Huawei Mate 20 series.

Huawei’s Kirin 980 is the world’s first 7-nanometer (nm) mobile SoC (systems-on-a-chip) chipset,  allowing it to edge itself over Apple to come in first. Apple unveiled its first 7-nm A12 Bionic chip for new iPhones on Sept 12, 2018.

Huawei is one of the major Chinese smartphone brands.
Huawei powers up with Kirin 980.

So what is 7-nm? Why does it matter?

The “nanometer” part refers to the size of the transistors inside the processors, and the smaller the transistors are, the more of them you can pack inside a chipset, which naturally improves performance. So, “nm” is that rare spec in tech in which the smaller the number the better.

Competing On Customer Experience

Chinese smartphone brands are also competing on customer experience to acquire and retain customers. To do that they have mainly focused on two aspects of the smartphone: the battery and camera.

Nowadays, most smartphone manufacturers are coming up with fast charging technologies, ensuring that their devices charged up in as little time as possible. Chinese brands beat Apple and Samsung with amazingly fast charging speeds, especially Oppo and OnePlus’s phones.

The special Lamborghini edition of Oppo’s Find X can go from 0 to 100 in 35 minutes. Even the less-premium standard Find X can fully charge in 45 minutes. OnePlus 6T and Huawei Mate 20 Pro,  likewise, can top at similar speeds.

However, it takes an hour and 10 minutes to charge a Samsung Galaxy Note 9, and 3 hours for an iPhone XS.

Other than that, Chinese smartphone manufacturers are also competing in digital camera experiences. One of the most appealing features in the Chinese smartphone market is the triple lens camera. Samsung also followed the trend, and the company launched Galaxy A7, a triple lens camera smartphone on Sept last year.

Samsung Galaxy A7.

However, Apple’s iPhone still lacks this feature. Following in the footsteps of Huawei and Samsung, Apple is widely rumoured to release at least one new iPhone model with a triple-lens rear camera in 2019.

Conclusion

With the constantly innovating and fast-paced advancements that Chinese smartphone makers are introducing onto the market, it is only a matter of time before they dominate the entire playing field.

If Apple and Samsung wish to hold on to their positions, it would behove them to learn a thing or two from the competition.


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