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Publication Date : 07-02-2013
Chinese handset makers such as Huawei and ZTE are catching up in the fast-changing smartphone industry.
Huawei, a Shenzhen-based telecom equipment manufacturer that has turned its focus to consumer products in recent years, shipped some 10.8 million smartphones to surpass Nokia and Research In Motion in the fourth quarter of last year.
ZTE, the second-largest telephone equipment maker in China, is also eager to boost this year’s smartphone shipments with a new lineup of premium handsets running on the fourth-generation Long Term Evolution networks.
“At present, consumers can easily recognise Apple or Samsung branded smartphones,” said Lv Qianhao, global marketing director at ZTE’s handset division, during a briefing in Hong Kong on January 30. “We hope consumers can also easily recognize ZTE’s brand in the future.”
The global smartphone industry has seen big changes in recent years since the introduction of Apple’s iPhone in November 2009. Samsung Electronics rose as the world’s biggest handset manufacturer and once-strong IT behemoths such as Nokia, RIM and HTC fell from the list of the top five global brands.
According to researcher International Data Corp., Samsung was the world’s No. 1 smartphone vendor, with 63.7 million shipments and a 29 per cent market share in the fourth quarter. Apple Inc. followed with 47.8 million shipments and a 22 per cent market share. Huawei was ranked third with 10.8 shipments and a nearly 5 per cent market share and ZTE was fifth in IDC’s rankings, shipping 9.5 million smartphones in the fourth quarter.
The Chinese rivals have not been active in releasing new smartphones in Korea despite their strong overseas growth in sales and shipments.
Huawei is currently putting its smartphone roll-put plan on hold here, while ZTE released “Z Phone” through the country’s online shopping site G-market on November 6.
So far, a total of 6,000 Z Phones have been shipped to Korea as of early this month, according to ZTE Korea managing director Cho Yu-suk.
“We’re looking at the possibility (of success) and mapping out plans to unveil a second (smartphone) model,” he said in a telephone interview.
ZTE has been gaining market share in China and overseas markets, especially Africa, by selling low-end smartphones costing under $161. The company released its new flagship LTE smartphone “Grand S” at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last month.
Separately, Huawei Korea’s executive Kim Hak-su said the firm would conduct a more in-depth market analysis before making its debut in Korea and that it aimed to enter the market with premium smartphones by next year.
“The Korean market is more of an investment market rather than a profit-making market,” he said. “We must do additional market research to cut the risks because the Korean market is definitely one with high risks.”
However, both firms’ executives said the local market was expected to recognise the value of Chinese products within three years.
“We believe it will take less than three years for Korean customers to have better recognition of smartphones made in China,” said Kim. “This will be the time when smartphones become a part of our everyday lives rather than representing the identity of the owner.”
As part of that effort, Huawei plans to develop speedy new one-chip-based models and customise the designs to the specific market, while also touching on aspects like cost competitiveness and good after-sales service, according to Kim.
“We will come to the market with premium-level products, not mid-end or low-end,” he said.