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Chinese brands aim high at Barcelona fair

By Zhu Shenshen (Shanghai Daily)

09:51, March 01, 2013

HUAWEI Technologies, ZTE Corp and Lenovo Group were among the Chinese phone makers who made an impression at the world's biggest mobile fair, which closed in Barcelona yesterday.

They wowed visitors with new models sporting faster chips, bigger screens and lower prices.

Lenovo exhibited its K900, with Intel's new dual-core chips, and ZTE unveiled the world's first Firefox system phone.

The blitz of Chinese brands at the Mobile World Congress signaled a determination to lift the global profile of domestic manufacturers and catapult them into the high-end of the market.

Despite their new traction, Chinese phone makers still have a long way to go in challenging industry titans such as Apple Inc and Samsung, especially in the smartphone segment priced at 4,000 yuan (US$634) or above, analysts said.

"Selective local brands like Lenovo and ZTE could gain share via favorable cost and performance, as well as enlarged scale," Morgan Stanley said in a recent note.

Indeed, Kevin Wang, an analyst at IHS iSuppli, is predicting that domestic brands will grab an even bigger share of the market this year, especially in China, the world's biggest mobile phone market.

In 2012, sales of phones in the domestic market hit 200 million units, and that's expected to climb to 280 million in 2013, Wang said.

At the end of 2012, according to Morgan Stanley, domestic phone makers had 61 percent of their local market, and that is expected to edge up to 66 percent this year.

However, Samsung retained its crown as king of domestic smartphone sales, with an 18 percent share of the market, followed by Lenovo with 12 percent, Apple with 10 percent, ZTE with 9 percent and Huawei with 8 percent.

The disparity is wider on the global stage. At the end of last year, Samsung and Apple accounted for more than half of all smartphones sold worldwide. Samsung held 29 percent of the market, with Apple second at 22.1 percent, according to US-based research firm Strategy Analytics.

Huawei's share was 5.3 percent, ZTE's 4.7 percent and Lenovo's 4.4 percent.

In China, domestic companies have been gaining ground at the expense of second-tier global players such as Taiwan-based HTC, Japan's Sony and Finland-based Nokia, industry insiders said.

Domestic brands have been most successful in the 1,000 yuan to 1,500 yuan price range. In comparison, HTC's cost structure has proven uncompetitive in China. In the 1,000 -2,000 yuan segment, the high-end smartphones of domestic brands compete against the mid-to-low end phones of HTC, according to Morgan Stanley.

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