Right now, Samsung and Apple dominate. But in China and in other markets, Chinese companies are growing faster than the global leaders.
Sometime this year, we'll reach the point where half the mobile phones sold in the world will be smartphones, rather than feature phones. The reason for that shift is partly caused by a drastic reduction in pricing for smartphones, thanks to low-cost Chinese brands. And also high-end brands.
In China itself, for example, Samsung is the No. 1 handset maker. But No. 2 is Lenovo, a Chinese company, and its handset business is profitable, too. According to one article, there are more than 100 Chinese companies now making smartphone handsets, and they all want to be Samsung.
Rumors have been circulating that Lenovo is in talks to buy RIM -- a development that, combined with continued aggressive growth, could thrust Lenovo into Samsung territory as a global maker of phones.
So if Samsung is No. 1 and Lenovo is No. 2, Apple must be No. 3, right? Wrong!
These companies, especially Huawei and ZTE, are bringing the smartphone revolution to emerging markets, for the most part. And now they want entry into the U.S. and European markets. Huawei and ZTE each had a large presence at the International CES trade show, which served as a kind of coming out party for those companies in the U.S.
Samsung and Apple fans may scoff at the idea that some obscure Chinese brand like Huawei or ZTE could take market share away from the leaders. But if either or both of these companies can make phones that are 95% as good as Samsung's best phone, and cost half the price, people are going to buy them in large numbers.
Apple, Google and Samsung control the global market for smartphones. But over the next year or two, all that could change as new software platforms and new handset makers take advantage of the leaders' stumbles to gobble up market share, market power and influence over the direction of mobile devices.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.