tech

Smartphones: the irresistible rise of the Chinese giants

Smartphones: the irresistible rise of the Chinese giants

The event was, again, the most viewed and most anticipated of the year in the world of the smartphone. By unveiling the latest iPhone on Wednesday, September 12, in California, Apple has confirmed the unmatched attraction – and status – that the company has $ 1,000 billion in capitalization in this market since the launch of its first model in 2007.

Six weeks earlier, however, the icon of California had suffered a very symbolic defeat. At the end of July, Tim Cook indeed lost its number two world title (behind Samsung) in favor of Chinese Huawei, so far in third place. With a sales increase of 41% in the second quarter, in a global market that is still falling (-3% in volume), the Chinese giant, according to the company Strategy Analytics, doubled Apple for the first time in its young history. This telecom equipment manufacturer from Shenzhen, born in 1988 in this former fishing village of South China transformed by Deng Xiaoping, arrived in mobile telephony in 2004. With an ambition: to become the number one in the world one day. Never did the target seem so close.

Huawei for Apple

Admittedly, Huawei will have to transform the test in the coming quarters. The Chinese group does not have the aura of an Apple and its absence in the United States, where the future of the 5G will partly play, is still a gaping hole in its world racket. Apple still holds more than half of the global market for mobile devices. But the arrival of the perpetual challenger in second place, with 15.5% market share (in volume) against 11.8% for Apple, says a lot about the sustainable installation of Chinese manufacturers in the landscape.

In fact, in the geopolitics of the smartphone, the center of gravity also moves to the east. Today, three of the five giants that share this market are Chinese: Huawei, Xiaomi and Oppo. Behind them are OnePlus, Vivo and others in an ambush. In 2011, however, only a Chinese manufacturer (the manufacturer of telecommunications equipment ZTE, who had also developed a smartphone company) was ranked fifth, according to Gartner. Nokia, not Samsung, then held the crown.

These Chinese builders have at least three things in common. They are young: Oppo was born in 2004, Xiaomi was born in 2010. All were founded by Chinese entrepreneurs from the private sector, or at least transformed into the private sector, during the transition from China to the market economy. And like the Japanese, Korean and Taiwanese manufacturers before them, these three Chinese musketeers have rejected all cards in the sector, with the latest products and at a good price. "Innovation for everyone", promises Xiaomi for his "fans" …

From "made in China" to "created in China"

A positioning that weighs on the margins, but that does not mean that we do not succeed in technology & # 39; can make. In March Huawei caused a sensation in Paris by revealing the first phone with three photo sensors, while most existing smartphones only have two. The group also wants to develop the first mobile phone " 5G ready From the world, planned for the end of 2019. " The importance of the smartphone market is not growth, which stagnates, but rather what happens inside, sums up Stéphane Curtelin, director of marketing and communication at Huawei France. We went from Made in China & # 39; the Gemaakt Made in China #. "

Will we now see Keynote as expected, such as that of Apple in California, but in Shenzhen, Shanghai, Canton or Chengdu? As far as communication is concerned, Chinese manufacturers will at least pick up late and spend them without counting. For the worldwide launch of its P20 in the spring, Huawei had privatized the Grand Palais. Three months later, Oppo, the fifth largest manufacturer in the world, also rented the square courtyard of the Louvre to present Find X, the latest phone of 999 euros. The detail is not scarce when we know that the company is from Dongguan, the gigantic factory city of South China. A diligent city, laborious and very devoid of charm …

Europe, a privileged target

Behind the symbol, however, the choice was carefully considered. If the Chinese manufacturers multiply the launches in Europe, parallel to those that take place regularly in China, it is because the Old Continent became their new hunting ground. In the spring, Xiaomi and Oppo both launched a few weeks in France, which is a prelude to a broader commitment in other European countries. This arrival in Europe is expected to compensate for the slowdown in China, where sales fell by 5% in 2017, a first in almost ten years. It also intervenes after a successful track trip in Southeast Asia and other emerging countries. For example, Xiaomi is the number one Indian market, the largest in the world since the end of 2017. The group also claims the first place in Burma, the second in Indonesia. In Europe he is already number three in Spain and number six in France, only four months after arrival in France.

The United States on the firing line

First successes that force him to look even further. Xiaomi is preparing for her arrival in the Benelux, Germany and the United Kingdom. The manufacturer of technological gadgets of any kind hopes that with a greater success across the Channel, he can approach the American market with more confidence. Lei Jun, the founder of Xiaomi, promised: his band will arrive in the United States in late 2018 or early 2019. Only then will Xiaomi or Huawei be able to actually position itself as a world champion. By that time, Apple still has a head start.

Raphael Balenieri