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Fast-moving Asian Phone Makers Gain on Apple

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Fast-moving Asian Phone Makers Gain on Apple
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Apple announced its new iPhones last week, but competitors’ mobile phones can do many of the same things for less money.

The new iPhone 8 and X have wireless charging, edge-to-edge glass screen and dual cameras.

But all of these features are already available in smart phones from China’s Huawei and Oppo, and Korea’s Samsung.

While Apple asks buyers to pay $1,000 for its high-end model, some Asian phone makers can offer similar features for less.

At one time, Chinese manufacturers copied features and designs from others to produce low-cost phones. But they have now added high-end features to their phones and they control nearly half the global mobile phone market.

MediaMarktSaturn is Europe’s biggest electronics seller. A spokesperson for the store told Reuters that, “Huawei is seen as a relevant competitor to Apple and Samsung (by) covering all major price points and placing big investments in marketing and sales.”

She also said that the Chinese companies Huawei, ZTE, Lenovo and TCL were among the top-10 best-selling smartphones in its stores.

Chinese manufacturers’ fast growth has been fueled by strong sales in China. But they now export 40 percent of their smartphones. That is almost double the number from just three years ago, according to the Hong Kong investment company CLSA.

Huawei is currently the world’s third largest phone maker behind Samsung and Apple. According to research company Canalys, the Chinese company is getting closer to second-place Apple and might overtake it later this year.

The Chinese firm even made fun of Apple’s new facial recognition feature with a Facebook video “RealAIphone.” Huawei plans to show its top-of-the-line Mate 10 phone on Oct. 16. The phone will have artificial intelligence features such as instant translation and image recognition and will cost less than $1,000.

Other Chinese companies are looking to enter the high-end smartphone market.

A man checks the Huawei Honor 5X during Mobile World Congress wireless show in Barcelona, Spain, last year.
A man checks the Huawei Honor 5X during Mobile World Congress wireless show in Barcelona, Spain, last year.

Xiaomi, for example, showed a full-screen phone this month with all-ceramic ‘unibody’ design and 12-megapixel front camera. The special edition Mi MIX 2 sells for $720.

Also, Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo are working to add ultrasound sensors under smartphone screens to improve the touch function.

Neil Shah is research director at the company Counterpoint. He said Chinese companies with a lot of sales are able to access many of the same parts for phones and offer many features. He said that has hurt Apple’s growth.

Still a gap

However, Apple still has a big lead over its Chinese competitors in the high-end market. And few experts think Apple fans will switch from the iPhone X to Huawei’s Mate 10.

The average selling price of smartphones from the top Chinese makers - Huawei, Oppo and Vivo - is just $248, or two-thirds less than the cheapest iPhone 8.

Apple has 63 percent of the market for phones priced higher than $600 compared to just 3 percent for Huawei, according to research from the Swiss bank UBS.

“The biggest challenge they (Chinese firms) face would be proving to consumers their products and brand are worth paying that much for,” said Xiaohan Tay, an expert at the research firm IDC.

I’m Mario Ritter.

Hai Do adapted this story for Learning English based on Reuters news report. Mario Ritter was the editor.

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Words in This Story

edge-to-edge –adj. completely covering the front of the device

features –n. a quality or ability

high-end –adj. a costly line of products

relevant –adj. relating to something in a useful way

top-of-the-line –adj. the highest or most advanced product among those sold by a company

artificial intelligence –n. related to machines like computers that can copy intelligent human behavior

ceramic –n. made from clay

function –n. a special purpose or ability

challenge –n. something that is difficult to do

consumers –n. a person who buys good or services

brand –n. a set of products that have a name