As China was gearing down for its New Year celebration, we asked our colleague, EE Times China's editor in chief, about China's electronics industry and the market in 2017.
For many who live outside China, the Middle Kingdom remains largely a mystery.
What we do know include that China represents a huge market, that Chinese consumers have an insatiable appetite for forward-looking consumer devices, and that China’s ambition is to establish itself eventually as the center of many global industries, including semiconductors.
While EE Times reporters in the United States are inclined to chase down big business/economic headlines, our colleagues at EE Times China are far more knowledgeable about what’s hot in China — in products, technologies and market trends.
As China was gearing down for its New Year celebration, I sat down with Yorbe Zhang, editor in chief at EE Times China, and picked his brain about where he sees China’s electronics industry and the market are heading in 2017. Followings are excerpts.
EE Times U.S.: Yorbe, pick the top five electronics products Chinese consumers are eager to buy in 2017?
Yorbe Zhang: Smart phones, connected devices at home (smart power switch, smart lighting, smart TV), wearable devices (designed more for sports and healthcare), cars (SUVs) and robotics.
EET: OK. Smartphones, connected devices, wearables, cars and robotics… I see few surprises. But let’s drill down further. For example, smartphones. We’ve been writing about a slowdown in the global smartphone market for months. Why is this still number one on your list? Don’t Chinese people already own smartphones?
Zhang: The penetration of smartphones in China is around 90 percent. But we still expect that to increase in 2017. Last year, 2.2 billion mobile phones were manufactured in China. The year- on-year growth was 17 percent.
EET: So when Chinese consumers replace their smartphones in 2017, what new must-have features are they looking for?
Zhang: Dual camera, touch on glass, curved display.
EET: Those are the features Apple and Samsung offer, and they’re popular over here, too. Who were top five best-selling local smartphone brands in China in 2016?
Zhang: Huawei, Oppo, Vivo, Xiaomi, Meizu
EET: Will the top five change in 2017?
Zhang: It’s a bit hard to forecast right now, but I see three key factors [for Chinese smartphone vendors] to become successful: 1. Own both offline and online sales channels; 2. Brand; 3. Innovation.
EET: Yes, we’ve been hearing that Xiaomi, which has grown mainly through its online stores in China, is planning to increase off-line retail sales, especially in India. Interesting.
Now, let’s talk about connected devices at home. You mentioned, in particular, smart power switch, smart lighting and smart TV. What’s driving Chinese consumers to buy them?
Zhang: [The key to understand this trend in China is smartphones.] Connected devices such as smartphones are making people’s lives easier. More important, [Chinese] consumers are saying they’re getting used to smart devices -- to control more and enjoy more. Meanwhile, big OEMs in China, such as Haier, Huawei, Meizu, Xiaomi, Alibaba are all involved in building the “smart life” ecosystem.
EET: Do you have any data on market penetration of those connected devices in China in 2016?
Zhang: Forecasts [I’ve seen] indicate that the penetration of smart phones, TVs, washing machines, air conditioners, refrigerator will reach [respectively] 99%, 93%, 45%, 55% and 38% by 2020.
EET: We’d like to know more about wearable trends in China. I feel that wearable devices have gotten a lot more popular in China much faster than in the United States. What were the top five, most popular wearables in China in 2016? What functions do they offer? And what specific “new” healthcare features are Chinese consumers looking for in 2017?
Zhang: Smart wristlets and watches still dominate the wearable device market in China. As a data-collection portal, such wearable devices still have a potential growth opportunity, even though we’ve seen overheated growth in the past two years.
Customers are looking for more functions in such devices, such as ECG. But how to deliver more accurate results is still a big challenge.
EET: We know car sales have increased in China. But why SUVs, in particular?
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