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ZTE’s Nubia aims to become top five smartphone brand globally

The Chinese high-end smartphone maker plans to expand its presence in Europe, Southeast Asia and Latin America

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 September, 2016, 9:25pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 September, 2016, 10:50pm

Chinese smartphone maker Nubia may still be relatively unknown outside of its home market, but it has huge ambitions - the company is aiming to become the fifth largest smartphone brand globally, competing against the likes of Apple and Samsung, within just three years.

Nubia’s lofty goal will also pit it against established Chinese brands, such as Huawei, the top smartphone maker in China and number three in Europe, and ZTE, which is slowly gaining a foothold in markets such as Spain and the US.

“The smartphone market is always changing and developing, and there is no guarantee that just because a brand has huge market share now, it will always stay that way,” said Felix Fu, co-founder and senior vice president of Nubia. “We have already started making a push into localisation in key markets, with offices in Germany, Spain and Italy ... we are confident that our technology and brand positioning will allow us to capture the market.”

From this year, Nubia has plans to make a bigger push into Europe, the Southeast Asia region as well as Latin American countries such as Mexico and Argentina.

To aid its chances of capturing global market share, Nubia in May appointed Real Madrid football star Cristiano Ronaldo as the spokesperson for its mobile devices - a move Fu said has helped boost brand awareness, especially in European markets.

The ZTE-backed company, which was founded in 2012, managed to sell 10 million devices globally last year in markets such as China, Russia and Indonesia, double the number it sold in 2014.

Back home, Nubia first made a name for itself when Chinese first lady Peng Liyuan was photographed using a Nubia Z5 mini in 2014 to snap pictures of a friendly football match between a German and Chinese youth soccer team in Berlin.

Since then, the company has become known for its mobile photography technology, which it says allows users to take DSLR-quality pictures on a mobile device.

We are confident that our technology and brand positioning will allow us to capture [overseas] markets
Felix Fu, co-founder, Nubia

At the IFA trade show in Berlin last week, the company launched its Z11 bezel-less handset for the global market, a premium 5.5-inch device with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 chipset which costs upwards of 499 euros (US$561).

“With devices such as the Z11, which has image stabilisation technology, users will be able to shoot long-exposure shots such as star trails,” Fu said, adding that Nubia smartphones will appeal to photography lovers as well as high-achieving professionals who want a high-quality device.

One of the company’s strategies to carve out market share in Europe, where consumers are slowly but steadily purchasing more devices from Chinese brands such as Huawei and ZTE, is to expand its sales channels in the region.

“To sell premium devices, it’s not enough to just have an e-commerce channel [which is popular in China]. You need to give consumers the opportunity to test products offline as well,” Fu said.

Nubia has already tied up with Amazon in Germany and Spain to boost its online sales, and has partnerships with major retailers like Media Markt and Saturn in Germany, and Phone House in Spain.