Text by Lin Yuan
Amidst the hustle and bustle of Mobile World Congress 2012, held recently in Barcelona, a 6-meter-tall Pegasus statue attracted considerable attention. Interestingly, the black horse with wings was built using more than 3,000 Huawei Ascend D quad handsets. Statue aside, outstanding performances of the quad-core processors and touchscreens of this phone, and products of other Chinese smartphone brands, such as ZET and Coolpad, also amazed many attendees. More and more overseas media started shifting focus to the Chinese smartphone industry.
According to a report released by iiMEDIA Research, in 2011, more than 30 percent of Chinese Android OS users owned Chinese smartphones manufactured by three domestic brands: Huawei (11.4%), ZET (9.8%) and Coolpad (9.2%). It’s safe to say that the Chinese mobile phone industry is soaring thanks to creativity and innovation.
When Chinese mobile phones are mentioned, many arrive at the “shanzhai” (knockoff) stereotype immediately. Indeed, the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen has seen frequent controversy along its journey to becoming the world’s largest mobile phone manufacturing and export base. However, upon entering the new century, thanks to the rapid development of mobile phone technology and the growing capacity of domestic manufacturing, Shenzhen can now boast a great many domestic-brand mobile phones with competitive functionality at affordable prices. This transformation started in 2006 when the requirement of an official examination and approval for a mobile phone production license was lifted in China. Benefiting from this adjustment, many small mobile phone manufacturers that formerly copied well-known names were motivated to research and develop their own brands. A year later, the debut of iPhone across the Pacific introduced the concept of “smartphone” to the Chinese market and quickly seduced Chinese consumers. Not until 2009, with easier and expanded access to the Google Android smartphone operating system in the Chinese market, could many domestic mobile phone manufacturers combine their inexpensive but high-quality hardware with the free Android software to satisfy Chinese consumers’ desire: a fancy smartphone with great functionality but a more reasonable price tag. Therefore, this development is seen as a turning point in Chinese smartphone development.