Chinese players steadily increase their presence in overseas markets
Chinese smartphone vendors Huawei Technologies Co Ltd and ZTE Corp are stealing the limelight at this year's Mobile World Congress, as they step up efforts to grab a bigger share of the high-end segment.
The moves came as Chinese players steadily increase their presence in overseas markets and take advantage of Samsung Electronics Co Ltd's exploding smartphone crisis to accelerate growth.
Huawei unveiled its latest flagship handset - the P10 - in Barcelona on Sunday, right before the opening of the telecom industry's biggest conference. The new handset features front and back cameras developed with the German optics company Leica, which the firm hopes will replicate the success of the P9, its most popular premium device ever.
ZTE also made a big splash with its prototype handset, which can download data at 1Gbps, which is 10 times faster than most smartphones currently on the market. Dubbed the "Gigabit Phone", the device is expected to go into mass production early next year, in a move to prepare for the upcoming commercial application of 5G technology.
"Chinese smartphone vendors strengthened their position as competitive contenders against Samsung and Apple Inc," said James Yan, research director at Counterpoint Technology Market Research.
"It is Chinese players, not foreign firms, that are actively experimenting with new technologies," he said, adding that ZTE's latest phone shows that in the next 10 years, 5G-driven applications, such as augmented reality content and instant cloud storage, will become available on smartphones.
Though Samsung and Apple still hold the top two spots in the global smartphone market, they are losing ground to Chinese smartphone vendors including Huawei, Oppo Electronics Corp and vivo Mobile Communication Technology.
Huawei, Oppo and Vivo accounted for a combined market share of 21.6 percent last year, up from 13 percent in 2015, data from IDC show.
Samsung, whose reputation tumbled after its Galaxy Note 7's recall, did not showcase a new handset at the Barcelona event, and Apple, as usual, just skipped the gathering.
"Huawei is maximizing Samsung's unfortunate issues with its battery, and, if Huawei continues to invest in its brand-building strategies, it will become the No 2 smartphone brand," said Ben Little, co-founder of innovation consultancy Fearlessly Frank.
Huawei is already the world's third-largest smartphone maker. Last year, the Shenzhen-based company shipped 139 million smartphones worldwide, an increase of 29 percent year-on-year.
Huawei's market share in 33 countries exceeded 15 percent and in another 18 countries topped 20 percent in the first half of 2016, according to German research firm GfK.