Five of the 10 top-selling mobile phone vendors in the world are Chinese, a fact that's been obscured by sales mainly taking place in China. That's about to change, according to a new report from ABI Research.
While Chinese OEMs accounted for 38 percent of global mobile handset shipments in 2013, this year, they're set to grab more than 50 percent market share, said ABI.
Many Chinese OEMs have focused almost exclusively on selling to consumers in China, but soon more will follow the examples of rivals such as Huawei (now the sixth-largest phone seller globally) and ZTE (now fifth), which have been expanding their brands in the United States and around the world.
Lenovo, the second-largest phone seller in China after Samsung, made a "clear statement of intent" to expand its reach when it purchased Motorola Mobility from Google in January, said the report, and Xiaomi, China's sixth-largest phone brand, is expected to follow suit.
Xiaomi made U.S. headlines last summer when Hugo Barra, vice president of product management for Android, left Google to help Xiaomi build better Android-running phones.
"The Chinese vendors highlight the changing shape of the mobile handset market, as the Chinese manufacturing ecosystem, specifically reference designs, enable the next wave of smartphone growth in low-cost emerging markets and amongst price-conscious consumers everywhere," Nick Spencer, senior practice director at ABI, said in a March 10 statement.
"Southeast Asia has already experienced this trend, but ABI Research expects to see the impact of these Chinese vendors increasing in all emerging markets and even advanced markets, especially prepay," he added.
Apple's Place in the Lineup
Apple, while its business model is out of sync with the low-cost devices favored in fast-growing markets, expects China to eventually become its number-one market. (It's currently its second market, behind the United States.) Earlier this year, the company signed an agreement to sell iPhones through China Mobile, the world's largest carrier, with three-quarters of a billion subscribers.
A March report from Upstream, a mobile monetization company that turned to Ovum to conduct its research, revealed that Apple is now the most coveted brand in developing markets. In China, 42 percent of those surveyed said they'd most like their next phone to be an Apple device. In Vietnam, 36 percent said the same, though in Brazil, top honors went to Samsung (37 percent).
"Only when each player truly understands the audience of each region—being able to answer the questions of what's affordable, what content do consumers want and what functionality is preferred—will they be able to connect with the consumers they are trying to reach," Upstream CEO Marcho Veremis advised in the report.