China's fit in the global smartphone market
Chinese smartphone makers clearly have a leg up in their own country, which by its sheer size has the largest smartphone market potential of any nation.
With a population of 1.35 billion, China is the world's largest country. It exceeds the U.S. population of 316 million by a factor of four. China has 160 cities with 1 million or more people, compared to 10 of that size or larger in the U.S.
In the third quarter, nearly one-third of all smartphones shipped by all vendors went to China, IDC said. In fact, China received 105 million of the 327 million smartphones shipped globally in the quarter. Outside of their home country, Chinese smartphone brands accounted for 13% of all global shipments, up from 9% a year earlier. That uptick is an indication of the growth expected for sales of Chinese smartphones outside of China in coming years.
Of course, 13% of the global market might not sound like much when you take into account the fact that it's spread across several Chinese vendors. But it's the specter of what's coming in the next year or two that has some competitors restless. Lenovo, which is top in PCs globally, is expected to be more aggressive in the smartphone market in the U.S. and other countries now that it owns the Motorola brand.
Google sold the Motorola handset division to Lenovo earlier this year after putting its imprint on the technology. A recent result of that effort was the 5-in. display second-generation Moto G smartphone with a quad-core processor that goes after the lower-cost segment so favored by Chinese vendors. An 8GB version sells for $180 unlocked and off-contract on Amazon.com.
Hyers called the Moto G "an amazing value in a smartphone."
Other Chinese smartphones are sold by U.S. carriers, but few get much attention from U.S.-based reviewers and they aren't well advertised. T-Mobile, for example, carries the ZTE ZMAX, which runs Android 4.4 (Kit Kat) and boasts a big 5.7-in. display, a Snapdragon quad-core processor and a 3400 mAh battery for $252 before rebate.
Buying an unlocked, off-contract Chinese smartphone on the Web to use with a U.S. carrier could prove to be a disappointment, however. That's because not all the wireless spectrum characteristics of a given smartphone will match up with a carrier's available spectrum.
In one example, an unlocked Xiaomi RedRice smartphone with a 4.7-in. display was selling recently on eBay for $160 . While it is listed as working worldwide on GSM and WCDMA networks, a Verizon Wireless representative said that even though Verizon has a CDMA network, there could be no upfront guarantee that the phone would be compatible with Verizon's service. It's possible to run an online test for compatibility, but that requires having the device available to run the test.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.