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Android Headliner: Chinese Smartphone Brands are Slowly Making Their Way West

May 9, 2014 - Written By Tom Dawson

Anyone who keeps up with current affairs even a little bit will know that China has become one of the largest economies in the world and that their explosive growth seemingly shows no sign of stopping. Of course, this is no doubt due to China producing the vast majority of products that we sure day-to-day, but when it comes to technology – and smartphone’s in particular – Chinese companies have found their own identity and they’ve become incredibly successful. We report on a number of phones from Asia, a lot of them from China, and it’s slowly becoming clear to me that Chinese manufacturers are starting to creep into the West. It’s taken a long time for companies like Oppo, Huwei and Xiaomi to become recognized in the West, and it’s going to take a few years for these devices to really take off, but dominant players like Samsung and Apple should definitely be worried.

When Hugo Barra left Google and said goodbye to a high-ranking position on the Android team, to join Xiaomi he did so in order to drive their internationalization effort. He’s not been with the company long, but already Xiaomi has moved into Singapore and it’s said that India is next. Small steps, for sure, but everyone has to start somewhere. Earlier in the week I watched a session of last year’s Le Web conference from Paris with Hugo Barra. In the half-hour chat, he quickly went through some staggering figures on just how much growth is happening in China, and how the nation’s people have more disposable income than ever before. You should definitely watch the session if you’re interested in the industry side of tech, but what hit me in particular was that there’s only really one thing to do when you get big at home; expand.

It’s just Xiaomi that’s looking to expand into the West and stay here, though. Huawei – a company that’s been selling lower-end handsets in Europe for a long time – announced the Ascend P7 this past week and will be selling it for $449 unlocked, complete with LTE. People are buying their smartphones outside of contracts more than they used to, and this is the best opportunity for Chinese manufactures to get their foot in the door. OPPO has been doing this for some time now and sells the Find 5, and the new Find 7 online for US customers and all across Europe. The company has quite the following already and that’s only set to increase.

Right now, these Chinese companies are sleeping giants, with no real marketing and poor local distribution outside of China. When they do start marketing their devices and improve their distribution worldwide though, what’s to stop them gaining market share outside of China? Well, nothing. Devices like the Mi3, Find 5 and scores of other devices from the likes of Vivo and others offer the same sort of features and high-end specs Westerners have come to expect, without the price tag. It’s been a long time since something really different came along and fresh faces from the East could really shake up the market. Just take a look at the OnePlus One and all the hype that spread across the Internet with very little effort on OnePlus’ part. By offering something different in the Western market, Chinese manufacturers could very well give the likes of Samsung some serious headaches.