SHENZHEN, China – Huawei, ZTE, Lenovo and Coolpad are the Chinese smartphone brands you probably know. But what about Kente, Meizu, SGiFe, ThL or Zopo?
As the Chinese smartphone market surges, few should be surprised to see so many new brands popping up. After all, the Chinese like nothing better than a hot market.[ARM TechCon 2012, the largest ARM design ecosystem under one roof, is Oct. 30 - Nov. 1 in Santa Clara. Click here to learn more]
So-called white box vendors (or "Shanzai," as they are sometimes called, even though it sounds derogatory) still exist in China. They assemble products from standardized parts and sell them to operators, OEMs/ODMs or even to the gray market. Now, some of the non-branded, local mobile handset design houses are wising up, changing their business model and moving up the food chain.
The target for these new brands remains domestic. But it’s important to note that vendors are not just slapping brand names onto generic smartphones. They’ve made a conscious effort to create a whole storefront with a unique brand, a la, the Apple Store, rather than selling in crowded retail shops where a vast array of smartphones are sold.
When I say storefront, I mean a cubbyhole on Huanqiang Road here, nothing like the sleek Apple stores in Manhattan and Palo Alto. Still, Chinese manufacturers have a new slogan: Branding matters.
Who leads China smartphone market? (% share based on unit shipment)
(Source: IHS iSuppli Research, August, 2012)
New brands like Kente, Meizu, SgiFe, ThL and Zopo – many of which have emerged in the last 12 months – have a ways to go before they can crack IHS iSuppli’s Chinese Top Ten. Nonetheless, these upstarts are thinking big, and many already offer a 5-inch-screen smartphone.
Here's what we found during a recent tour of Shenzhen's consumer electronics outlets.
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