Chinese Firms Take On Global Mobile Giants

      February 29, 2012 11:57

      Chinese firms are challenging mobile phone giants in the global market dominated by Korean, American, Japanese and European firms. ZTE, Huawei and other Chinese phone makers, which had concentrated on cheap models, unveiled premium quad-core smartphones at the Mobile World Congress 2012 in Barcelona.

      According to 2011 sales statistics by market researcher Strategy Analytics, ZTE and Huawei ranked fifth and sixth after Nokia, Samsung Electronics, Apple and LG Electronics.

      ◆ High-End Models

      At the Mobile World Congress, the world's biggest mobile-focused trade show, ZTE and Huawei set up their booths near Samsung's. An industry insider said, "More visitors are stopping by the booths of Chinese makers, which are rising stars, than those of Nokia or Sony, the mobile giants of the past."

      Huawei unveiled a quad-core smartphone called Ascend D Quad. A processor with four CPU cores is about twice as fast as the dual-core one used by most current smartphones. Among Korean makers, only LG has released a quad-core smartphone.

      ZTE unveiled eight new models, including the quad-core ZTE Era smartphone. "Our new models will help us become one of the top three global mobile giants by 2015," a senior ZTE executive said. "We're going to target premium markets in Europe, the U.S. and Japan rather than focusing on producing moderately-priced or cheap models."

      Huawei and ZTE promised more quad-core phones in the second half of this year to coincide with the release of similar phones by LG and HTC, which are considered a step ahead of their Chinese rivals in terms of technology. LG admitted that Huawei's rapid growth is closing the technology gap between them.

      Visitors look at products at the booth of Chinese mobile maker ZTE at the Mobile World Congress 2012 in Barcelona. /Reuters-Newsis

      ◆ Quantum Leap

      Chinese companies are making rapid strides. ZTE sold 24.4 million mobile phones in the fourth quarter last year, far more than LG's 17.7 million. Huawei was hot on LG's heels by selling 16.3 million units. Canada's RIM (13.4 million), Taiwan's HTC (10.2 million), and the U.S.' Motorola (10.3 million) are already no match for their Chinese rivals in terms of sales volume.

      Chinese firms are shifting their focus away from cheap phones. Huawei plans to sell 60 million smartphones this year, three times as many as last year's and far more than LG's goal of 35 million.

      In the past, Chinese phone makers made small profits because they mostly focused on cheap phones targeting the Chinese, African and Latin American markets. Their shifting focus to premium smartphones is an inevitable decision if they want to survive, experts say, as their rapid rise could fizzle unless they turn to medium-priced and high-end markets as soon as possible.

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