Apple and Samsung are struggling. Chinese smartphone brands have now gained a renewed global prestige so much so that now these four companies are leading the country’s smartphone “Long March” from China to Europe
While Nokia and Motorola are ancient history, Apple and Samsung are now just about to be dethroned. From the Japanese supremacy to the rise of the United States, today, Chinese smartphones are driving the expansion of the Made in China leading more than just one populous market.
After some years of Apple and Samsung’s supremacy, people are starting to prefer mobile brands coming from the PRC. Indeed, Chinese smartphones’ global awareness is growing steadily. After the boom in the domestic market, increasing investments in research and development have enabled the Dragon’s mobile companies to reach 50% of the international market already in 2017.
Huawei is the most popular Chinese brand abroad, but other Chinese smartphones are now gaining their spot in the market. Xiaomi, OPPO, OnePlus, and even Realme are the new kids on the block, and they are just about to take off in Europe.
According to a recent study by the analyst firm Canalys, in 2018, 32% of smartphone deliveries to Europe involved devices from China. Moreover, while Xiaomi and Huawei sales in Europe grew 62% and 56% respectively, the report also revealed that Apple and Samsung’s EU sales contracted 5% and 1% respectively.
© Xiaomitoday.com. The Chinese brand Xiaomi launched its flagship smartphone Mi 9 in February, the first consumer smartphone capable of using 5G networks.
As mentioned above, Xiaomi represents the second most popular Chinese brand in Europe after Huawei. But before Europe, the company has already conquered the Southeast Asia region and the African continent.
Since the launch of its first smartphone in 2011, Xiaomi has grown very fast and it became one of China’s top smartphone companies already in 2014. That year, over 61 million Xiaomi smartphones were sold and since then the company has maintained a surprising growth rate.
In 2016, the hi-tech company opened its first physical Mi Home store in Beijing, marking Xiaomi’s official debut in the offline retail market. Three years after, more than 400 Mi Home stores were established in the country, covering more than 50 cities in China.
For what concerns the march to Europe, the company’s first European store opened in Spain in 2017, while in May 2018, the first Italian store was opened in Milan, helping Italy to become the fastest growing market for the Chinese brand, although it is Paris the city that hosts the biggest European store. During the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the senior vice president Wang Xiang revealed that one of Xiaomi’s goal is to triple the number of stores in Western Europe by the end of 2019, bringing the total to 150.
Huawei, Xiaomi, Oppo, and other Chinese brands like Vivo have defeated the internal competition and now represent 70% of all Chinese smartphone shipments while one out of three smartphones in Europe comes from China.
Nevertheless, Xiaomi has to deal with the Chinese rival OPPO, which is going big in its international expansion. According to IDC data, OPPO has already overtaken Xiaomi, becoming the fourth-largest smartphone seller for market share in the fourth quarter of 2018.
Registered as a global brand in 2001, OPPO was founded as a company in Dongguan, Guangdong, only in 2004. It became the biggest smartphone maker in China in 2016, selling its high-quality but low-cost phones in more than 200,000 retail outlets.
OPPO began exploring the potential of international markets in 2009 by first breaking into Thailand. The firm then began to rapidly develop a strong image and market share across Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Oceania. As of early 2019, OPPO has already been registered in more than 140 countries and its smartphones are sold in 30 markets globally, counting on 310 million total users.
Actually, the Middle Kingdom is the main market, but for what concerns Europe, the company aims to gain a larger market in Italy, Spain, France, Holland, and in the United Kingdom as well. The strategy is based on creating brand awareness and on expanding the distribution network.
© Unsplash. OPPO R17 launch at Vietnam. Four out of the five major SEA markets are dominated by Samsung, but OPPO got hold of the Philippines.
The history of OPPO has crossed that of two of the most interesting characters on the Chinese technological scene: Carl Pei and Pete Lau, who were OPPO Blu Ray division’s former general manager and OPPO’s former vice president and who now are the head of OnePlus, which calls itself “the Asian Apple.”
Founded in Shenzhen in 2013, OnePlus became a viral sensation in 2014 when the company launched the contest that made OnePlus devices the most exclusive – and thus wanted – smartphones worldwide. Actually, OnePlus is certainly not one of the most popular brands. The reason is simple: it does not advertise or at least it does not advertise so much. However, it produces smartphones that have nothing to envy to the most famous models, but they cost half as much.
OnePlus has been open about its plans to bring a phone out in 2019 that is capable of connecting to 5G, but now the company is declaring war against its competitors by claiming it will be the first to offer a 5G-capable phone in Europe. An exact release date was not confirmed, but the company has unveiled a new partnership with UK network EE to bring the unspecified phone to the UK at some point in 2019.
OPPO and OnePlus together are part of BBK Electronics, a Chinese multinational company specialized in consumer electronics, which sells mobile phones of different brands. Realme is the multinational’s latest smartphone firm, which is going to conquer the European market soon.
Based in Shenzhen, Realme was announced last year as an affordable series of Oppo, just to separate later into an independent brand that still uses the infrastructure of its parent company. Interestingly enough, at that time, the company was present in many Asia-Pacific markets, but none of them included China.
Sub-brands from major Chinese phone companies like Huawei’s Honor were originally created to infiltrate developing markets such as India and intended to stay out of developed markets in which the parent company is thriving. Realme followed that script initially, too, selling in India first and then in Southeast Asia. But finally, last April, Realme was launched in Beijing, shifting direction and venturing into its home country, and towards new shores.
In April the brand organized a blind sale for its latest flagship model in the Indian market, but it suddenly got a lot of attention from worldwide buyers. Its product has been well received by both the Indian media and consumers. Therefore, unsurprisingly, it was praised by the European media as well for its superior performance, design, and pricing.
From May 20th to 24th, Realme thus organized four launch events for European media in the UK, France, Italy, and Spain, in addition to announcing its official arrival in Europe. After having already established a strong presence in more than ten markets, Realme is thus ready to take its spot in the international stage.
© Realme. In May 2019, right after its first step to the UK, Realme launched its latest model in Spain, Italy, and France with a campaign entirely tailored for EU consumers.
The US ban on Chinese products forced the Dragon’s tech companies to explore other markets. Therefore, since they are not able to do business in the United States, Xiaomi, Oppo and the others have begun to invest much more money and resources in the European market.
Here, the Chinese brands sell high-end smartphones but at affordable prices, as opposed to Samsung or Apple devices. Therefore, in its Long March from China to Europe, passing through SEA countries and India, the Dragon is rewriting its tech history. And it is doing it through the smallest but the most used device: the smartphone.
Huawei has opened the doors, but now other Chinese brands are ready to take off in the European market.
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