Opinion: Are Chinese Smartphone OEMs Avoiding The US Market?

As most of you know, China is home to the largest smartphone market in the world. A ton of companies in China manufacture smartphones, and the vast majority of smartphone parts are manufactured in the Far Eastern country as well. Having said that, in Europe, well, parts of Europe, you will find a ton of various Chinese smartphones on sale in pretty much every tech-related store, while that’s not the case when it comes to the US, and there are a number of reasons for it, but let’s talk about the most obvious one first. If you’ve ever purchased a smartphone from a not-so-well-known brand and you tried using it with a SIM card from one of the US carriers, you’ve probably noticed that 4G LTE is not available to you, in most situations, you won’t even have access to 3G either, and the reason for that are smartphone bands.

Most of the really affordable smartphones that are manufactured in China are fueled by MediaTek’s processors. For those of you who do not know, MediaTek is a Taiwan-based company, and one of the largest mobile SoC manufacturers in the world. That being said, none of the company’s current processors offer full support for US bands, which basically prevents you from using mobile network speeds in the US to their full potential, and that is a huge issue for some people who are thinking of getting a smartphone online. Tons of really compelling devices are available for purchase online, though they need to be imported, of course, and some people do buy them, while most of them are not even aware of the fact that those phones do not support US 4G LTE bands, and as already mentioned, some of them don’t support 3G either, while you may also encounter some devices which are having issues getting any sort of mobile data signal in the US.

Having said that, MediaTek did say that it’s working on offering full support for US bands in the future, and we may even see one such processor released this year even, but there are number of hoops that MediaTek needs to jump through in order for that to happen, including a number of certification processes that the company needs to go through. Having said that, MediaTek’s chips are the most affordable solution for most of those Chinese OEMs which are manufacturing budget smartphone, so it’s not all that surprising that they are opting for MediaTek’s offerings. Presuming that MediaTek does release such a chip in the near future, some of those Chinese OEMs would probably be compelled to partner up with some US companies, and sell their devices in the country, without the need for people to import them from China. That is definitely a possibility, though there’s always a question of how interested would US consumers be in such smartphones. The US is not exactly a developing market when it comes to smartphones, so consumers’ interesting in really cheap smartphones would probably be considerably lower compared to the interesting in developing markets, such as India, for example.

Another reason why Chinese OEMs thread carefully when it comes to the US is probably LeEco. This China-based company is in some serious trouble at the moment, it is having some serious financial issues, both the company and its former CEO, Jia Yueting. A ton of reports surfaced over the last couple of months regarding all that, and it doesn’t really seem like LeEco will be able to stand on its feet anytime soon, as we did not see the company release a single product for quite some time now, while the company had to leave the US altogether. Overexpansion is one of the main reasons why LeEco is in its current position, as the company attempted to do too much, too soon, including expanding to the US market. LeEco actually opened up its US headquarters and started hosting various sales for its products, but the company’s sales numbers were not as good as expected, and as one thing led to the other, LeEco had to leave the US, basically, and try to salvage what is left of the company back home, in China. LeEco’s mistakes are actually a really good guideline for other large Chinese companies, such as Xiaomi, for example, a company which is selling some of its products in the US, but the company’s smartphones, for example, still did not arrive to the US, even though that may happen in the near future.

Xiaomi actually threads lightly when it comes to expanding its business, as the company arrived to Spain last year, though it arrived with a limited portfolio, as it’s being really careful not to overextend its arm for no reason. Huawei is also a name that comes to mind, a company which did get some smartphone market share in the US, as it has been selling its products over there for quite some time now, but Huawei did not exactly jump head on either. You may have even heard that the company was unable to reach an agreement with the US carriers over a possible cooperation regarding the company’s Mate 10 devices, so you won’t be seeing the Huawei Mate 10 or Mate 10 Pro being offered by US carriers anytime soon, and in order for a company to really skyrocket in the US, having its devices available via carriers is kind of a must, which is not the case for some other regions, like most of Europe, for example, and also China.

Truth be told, most of the Chinese smartphone OEMs are doing just fine outside of the US, no matter if we’re talking about huge companies like Huawei, OPPO, Vivo, and Xiaomi, or smaller players like Elephone, Cubot, Ulefone, and so on. There are some huge differences between these companies, and as Xiaomi, OPPO, etc. are probably trying to find a way to the US for its smartphones, as in an official way, smaller players will probably consider that move once MediaTek provides them with a processor which supports all US 4G LTE bands, and once all those certification processes are completed, though it’s highly likely that only a small portion of those smaller companies will actually try to partner up with some US companies, and sell their devices in the US, most of them will probably stick to an online only model, and offer US consumers a way to import devices. All in all, it will be really interesting to see what will happen in the future, as some US consumers do seem to be quite interested in Chinese smartphones, even those extremely budget ones, so having an option to buy them with full support for US bands would definitely be a huge plus for Chinese smartphone manufacturers.

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About the Author
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Kristijan has been writing for Android Headlines since 2014 and is an editor for the site. He has worked as a writer for several outlets before joining Android Headlines, and has a background in writing about Android and technology in general. He is a smartphone enthusiast that specializes in Android applications, and that platform in general. Contact him at Kristijan. [email protected]
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