Huawei, Lenovo poised to close gap with smartphone leaders

Total industry shipments topped 1 billion units last year for the first time

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 January, 2014, 5:02am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 January, 2014, 9:05am

Huawei Technologies and Lenovo are expected to intensify competition in the global smartphone market after both companies recorded strong unit shipment growth last year.

Data released yesterday by technology research firm IDC showed the two Chinese technology giants captured a combined 9.4 per cent market share last year, when total industry shipments topped 1 billion units for the first time.

Huawei, the telecommunications industry's second-biggest equipment manufacturer, maintained its No3 position with 48.8 million smartphones shipped last year, while Lenovo, the world's largest supplier of personal computers, finished in the No5 spot with 45.5 million units.

Samsung Electronics remained the smartphone market leader last year, followed by Apple. LG Electronics was ranked fourth.

IDC credited Hong Kong-listed Lenovo with the highest year-on-year increase in smartphone shipments, at 91.7 per cent, among the world's top-five suppliers last year, despite having no smartphone distribution in North America and Western Europe. "The company's strength lies in its strong presence within key emerging markets and a well-segmented product portfolio spanning from simple, affordable smartphones to full-featured 5-inch screen models," IDC said. "Should the company become successful at branching into more developed markets in 2014, it could challenge Huawei for the number three spot."

Lenovo has announced plans to expand smartphone sales into at least 20 more markets this year after initially making its devices available in mainland China, Russia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia and India.

Koh Kong Meng, Lenovo's vice-president and general manager of its East Asia operations, last month said the company was keen to enter the "phablet" market and was now "building relationships with telecommunications network operators to penetrate the post-paid smartphone users", after targeting pre-paid subscribers in emerging markets.

A phablet, which is a portmanteau of the words "phone" and "tablet", features a large screen with a diagonal measurement as big as 7 inches.

Neil Mawston, the executive director at research firm Strategy Analytics, said: "Lenovo must move aggressively into the phablet market because it is one of the fastest-growing portions of the smartphone industry in China and worldwide."

Huawei, which missed its target of 60 million unit shipments last year, has raised its profile among consumers by selling more self-branded smartphones, according to IDC. It said Huawei posted a 67.5 per cent year on year increase in smartphone shipments in the past 12 months.