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The Chinese Smartphone Revolution and the 6 Major Smartphone Players

Major mobile phone brands have been enjoying the meteoric rise of their brands since the mobile phone industry took off. Their entry in the Chinese market, coupled with the bigger homegrown Chinese brands, urged on the Chinese smartphone revolution.

The Chinese Smartphone Revolution

Whether it is the second, third, or even the fourth smartphone revolution does not matter. What matters is that the revolution is happening elsewhere that is not the United States or even in a country in Europe. That is because the venue of the latest smartphone revolution is the nation called the “sleeping giant”: China.

The first ever mobile phone service in China was offered by the China Mobile Communications Corporation or CMCC. The year was 1987 and technology back then was incomparable to today. Thereon, the mobile phone industry kept growing with the help of the authorities.

According to Jujian Chen and Xiaorui Hu, China now has the largest market when it comes to mobile phones. In October, 2011 alone there were already 950 million mobile phone users in China. That number far surpassed those of in India and America.

However, before it became the market it is today, the mobile phone industry in China used to be beset with problems. It used to be that Shanzai phones, or guerilla handsets, dominated the industry. These Shanzai phones were often alleged to imitate or copy designs and features. Sometimes, they even copied the names of other major mobile phone brands or tweaked them just a little.

Though the Shanzai era of the mobile phone industry in China was problematic, Shin-Horn Cheng and Pei-Wang Chen said that it was also one of the things that brought on the expansion of the mobile communications market in the country. It paved the way for the entry of legitimate homegrown Chinese phone companies, such as Tatang, Huawei, and China Mobile.

With the government’s top-down approach, industrial standards were set, and a few companies such as the three mentioned above receive financial support.

The Chinese Mobile Phone Industry Hits a Snag

But while the mobile phone industry in China rose meteorically, it also hit a wall. In 2015, for the first time since mobile phones began selling in the country, sales fell. reported that major mobile phone brands, including Chinese ones, struggled to sell units, as the industry hit saturation. The fall in the number of units sold was first noted in the first quarter of 2015. Even in the second quarter, sales failed to pick up.

Another reason for the not-so-perky sales was the economic uncertainty surrounding China at the time. The government had to struggle to convince investors to put their money in the country as its economy was slowing down.

The news site added that to attract more customers, major mobile phone brands, as well as Chinese brands have to up their game especially when it came to premium smartphones.

Nevertheless, these major mobile phone brands continue to enjoy their popularity in China.

6 Major Mobile Phone Brands in China

Some people may already be able to enumerate what these brands are. Nevertheless, they remain worthy of attention, as they play a big role in the smartphone revolution in China.

According to Counterpoint Technology Market Research, these are the major mobile phone companies and brands that dominate the industry in China:

1. Oppo

No 1 in major mobile phone brands

Photo Source: Flickr user Maurizio Pesce

Last June 2016, Forbes said that Oppo gained traction in the Chinese smartphone market. For the first time ever, they gained the top spot, reigning over bigger homegrown and more established brands like Xiaomi and Huawei.

The fledgling brand’s rise can be attributed to its great offline presence. Though a young brand, it has already reached customers beyond tier-2 and tier-3 cities.

Plus, the designs of BKK Electronics’ brand have turned the heads of many smartphone consumers, especially those under the age of 25.

2. Huawei

No 2 in major mobile smartphone brands, Huawei

Photo Source: Ilya Plekanov via Wikimedia Commons

Next is another homegrown Chinese brand that has penetrated the global market. Fortune related that Huawei saw a significant rise in its smartphone shipments in the first quarter of 2016. This is a huge achievement for the company as it made headway in a saturated industry.

Last year, the privately-owned smartphone brand led the way in smartphone sales. It also stayed ahead of Apple and Samsung in global sales. However, it is now facing stiff competition from other Chinese brands, especially Oppo and Vivo.

3. Vivo

Vivo Mobile is a sister brand of Oppo

Photo Source: Vivo Mobile via Wikimedia Commons

Another brand owned by BKK Electronics, Vivo is another one of the fast-rising major mobile phone brands in China. Together with its sister brand Oppo, it challenged bigger names such as Huawei, Apple, and Samsung. said that Vivo showed the biggest growth in Q3 of 2016. Demand for shipments of Vivo units have risen, and now owns 16.2% of the market share.

Furthermore, together with Oppo, it now controls almost a third of the Chinese mobile phone sales.

4. Apple

Apple drops to number 4 as one of the major mobile phone companies in China with its sad iPhone 7 sales

Photo Source: Maurizio Pesce via Wikimedia Commons

Apple seems to be struggling in keeping the interest of the Chinese market. It just released its seventh iteration of the iPhone, and sales are dismal in the country.

Lucinda Shen, writing for Fortune, reported that demand for iPhone 7 was significantly lower in China than in the US. Compared to demand for the 6s and 6, those who were likely to purchase a 7 are down to 43%.

Shen explained that this is largely due to the increasing demand for domestic brands’ “better products.”

5. Xiaomi

Xiaomi drops to number 5 in the list of major mobile companies in China

Photo Source: Vernon Chan via Wikimedia Commons

One of the major mobile phone brands that lead in China, Xiaomi, is seeing a decline in unit sales. It used to be that the Beijing-based company’s marketing strategy was the envy of other brands. But now, it does not seem to work for it anymore.

Quartz said that Xiaomi used to be proud of not spending money on advertisements, and relying only on word-of-mouth and fan social media promotion. Now, though, the company has to use tactics it once shunned.

Heavy competition in the mobile phone market in China is forcing its hand. Nowadays in China, people would see Xiaomi ads at bus stops, on buses themselves, subways and subway stations, and malls. Plus, the phone company has even hired celebrity spokespersons.

6. Samsung

Last in the list of major mobile phone brands

Photo Source: Răzvan Băltărețu via Wikimedia Commons

Last in this list of major mobile phone brands in China is Samsung. Lately, the South Korean mobile phone stalwart has been experiencing problems with its new flagship mobile, Note 7.

Samsung began selling units of Note 7 on August 19 but soon had to recall units because of exploding battery reports.

After the recall, their shares plummeted and the South Korean giant had to halt production of Note 7. South China Morning Post said that local Chinese brands are benefiting from the hollow left by Samsung and Note 7.

To recover from the downwind sales, Samsung will have to be aggressive in promoting their rumored Galaxy S8 if or when it comes out.

Photo Source: Kārlis Dambrāns via Wikimedia Commons

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