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Can Asian Smartphone Underdogs Rival the Industry Giants?

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It’s hard to believe that Simon, the world’s first smartphone was invented in 1992. The word “smartphone” wasn’t invented until 1995, yet incredibly enough, today, 2.5 billion people own one. That number is a testament to the success of the fiercely competitive smartphone industry. The billions who still don’t a smartphone are providing ample incentive for the phone market to get even more fiercely competitive.

Industry giants like Samsung and Apple continue to dominate the market. In 2015, Samsung sold 322 million phones, capturing 22.4% of the global market, while Apple sold 231.4 million phones, capturing 16.1%. Combined, these two succeeded in reaching 38.5% of the entire global market.

Rising Asian Stars

However, seven of the top ten world’s biggest phone makers of 2015 were Chinese companies. There was a time when the number one reason consumers chose a lesser-known brand was that the manufacturers offer them at more affordable prices. Price is still an important factor, but quality and innovation have become increasingly important factors as well.

Closing in on the lead and ranked at number three is Huawei, whose sales grew at an astonishing rate during the year, although most sales were in Asia. Two of their most popular models are the P-9 and the 6-inch Mate 8, which is especially popular with gamers and others who value more screen space. It displays photos taken with its impressive camera beautifully. The Mate 8 runs on Huawei’s own Emotion UI and also features a stylish aluminum design, complete with a fingerprint scanner on the back. The interesting thing about P9 is that it’s an absolute beast, with an octa-core CPU and dual-lens camera, while still retaining a reasonable price. If you’re looking for an iPhone killer, look no further.

Xiaomi, another of the rising stars, ranked at number five and enjoyed sales growth from 61.1 million in 2014 to 71 million in 2015. Their Mi 5 boasts a number of impressive features in addition to greater affordability than Apple products. It utilizes the Snapdragon 820 system chip and a custom skin with Android 6, for a feature-rich experience. It also features a camera with an advanced optical stabilization system which produces great pictures even in low light. If it were available in the United States, it’s hard to say how much more their market share might increase.

LG, a South Korean company headquartered in Seoul, ranked at number six. Two of their most popular phones are the LG Rebel LTE and the LG G Flex 2. The Flex 2 features a curved P-OLED screen, and innovative self-healing back cover technology. It also has 2TB of external memory support, which is more than most home computers.

Future Contenders

Meizu’s PRO 5 features the same Exynos 7420 system chip that powers the Samsung Galaxy S6 and the Galaxy Note 5. That, combined with its large 5.7- inch screen made it their most advanced, and expensive, offering of 2015. An added advantage of the PRO 5 over the Galaxy Note 5 is that the battery is user-changeable. Since Meizu launched their Android smartphone line in India this year, we may well see them on next year’s top ten list.

ZTE is one of the few Chinese companies competing in the U.S. market. Reportedly, their goal is to achieve the number three spot. Two of their most popular models worldwide are the ZTE Grand X Max+, a phablet affordably priced at about $200, and the ZTE Star 2. Star 2 features one of the best-integrated voice assistants anywhere. You can use to make calls, use apps, and control the camera without having to hit a single button.

Shifting Markets

Google’s Android platform now has 81% of the market share, a small increase from the 78% it enjoyed last year, but a substantial increase from the 65% it held in 2013. Apple, which holds only a 16.1 market share, increased only .1% from the 16% it held in 2014, a decrease from the 20% it achieved in 2013.

One of the reasons for that decrease may be the rising prices of Apple products, while Asian manufacturers continue to produce products of similar quality that are much more affordable. Innovation and affordability will determine which companies will make the cut for next year’s top ten list. Meanwhile, consumers will benefit from their competition to reach the top, enjoying the higher quality and more features– at lower prices.

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