China being the worlds largest Smartphone market has invigorated entrepreneurialism and brought to the fore some of the world's most innovative new companies - particularly in field of mobile technology. Relatively new companies such as One plus One, Smartisan, MeiZu and of course XiaoMi are increasing research and development spending by up to 20% a year and bringing to market some incredible new devices set to change the established order. Not only competing on price but also on specifications and design, these companies are set to become global names as they begin an aggressive global expansion policy, particularly in the emerging markets of Latin America, India, Africa and Asia.
China produced some 870 million mobile phones in 2013, with some 70% of these being manufactured by domestic companies catering to the vast lower end of the market, typically less than 2,000 rmb (330 usd). However with the domestic market predicted to slow in 2014 the emphasis will be on delivering higher specification handsets to both telecoms operators and non contract purchasers as well as tapping into foreign markets, in particular those in Asia.
Not to ignore established companies such as Huawei, Coolpad, K-Touch and Lenovo we instead focus on those companies we believe bring Apple-esq build quality and design to their products but at half the price of their foreign competitors.
Jack Wong, Founder, Chairman and Chief Architect: Founded Zhuhai based MEIZU in 2003 as an MP3 player company and began smartphone production in 2006. Committed to developing high-end smartphones since then, they have focused on developing innovative and user-friendly smartphones for consumers. With more than 1,000 employees and 600 retail stores as well as 100 patents in China, the company has built a global presence in Hong Kong, Israel, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Ukraine.
One Plus One
OnePlus is a technology startup committed to bringing the best possible technology to users around the world. Created around the mantra ‘Never Settle’, OnePlus creates beautifully designed devices with premium build quality. OnePlus currently sells directly to global buyers via its website in 15 countries - Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, United Kingdom, and the United States. However the purchase process seems to be a little trickier than expected.
Xiaomi (little rice) is a Beijing based mobile internet company dedicated to creating an all aspect user experience. Founded in 2010 by Lei Jun, the company has fast become one of the leading tech firms in China. The company is currently valuated at over 10 billion USD and has over 3000 employees. With its new international headquarters in Singapore the company has already landed in Malaysia, Philippines and India, and also has plans to enter Indonesia, Thailand, Russia, Turkey, Brazil and Mexico. During Q2 of 2014, they overtook the top spot from Samsung in terms of shipments in China. Competing primarily on price and design: the newly released Xiao Mi 4 has the same specifications as a Samsung Galaxy S5 at less than half the price
Xiaomi's main portfolio of products includes:
- - Xiaomi Phones: high quality and performance Android devices
- - MIUI ROM: highly customizable ROM that can be flashed across multiple Android devices
- - MiTalk: a preeminent messaging application
- - MiBox: A smart set-top box the enriches your TV experience
Founded in early 2012 the Beijing start-up, Smartisan, is both a manufacturer and OS/Android UI design company. It`s name is derived from ‘smart’ and ‘artisan’ combined into a word, meaning "intelligent mobile phone era". Headed by entrepreneur Luo Yonghao, the company is all about the details less than affordability, in both it`s OS and phone design. It`s flagship T1 is a sleek, predominantly glass exterior, higher-end handset using the Android-based Smartisan OS.
Chinese manufacturing plants have been producing foreign brand phones for most of the last decade, so the technical know-how is well established. Combined with the massive pool of design and development talent, domestic brands are now coming to the fore both on the international and domestic stage. They are no longer willing to compete simply on price but taking on the established OEM`s in terms of design and innovation.
With the shift in demand for smart connected devices moving from developed markets to emerging markets (its is estimated one billion devices will be delivered to emerging markets in 2014), Chinese OEM`s seem ideally placed to meet this demand. Although the double-digit growth of smartphones and tablets in emerging countries is a driving force for market entry, the low selling price and margins mean OEM`s will struggle to meet the demands of profitably.