China's Meizu set to launch new smartphone brand PRO to compete with Apple, Samsung on more level footing
Chinese smartphone maker Meizu, backed by e-commerce leader Alibaba, will launch a new brand called PRO later this month to tap the higher end of the market, it said.
The new flagship handset will retail for between 3,000 yuan and 4,000 yuan (US$470-$630) and should help the company win ground against domestic rivals like Huawei and ZTE in the high-end market, Meizu’s vice president Li Nan said.
The move comes as more Chinese smartphone makers are looking upmarket with pricier devices to take on the likes of Apple and Samsung.
Li said the handsets billed as high-end by Huawei and Xiaomi cannot compete with Apple’s latest iPhone models in quality, innovation or user experience.
Huawei unveiled its new Mate S earlier this month and said the model will sell for US$732, with a premium version costing around US$848. This would put it on a similar price level as the latest iPhone or Samsung’s S6.
Li declined to offer further details about the model that will soon by released by the company, which is based in Zhuhai on the southern coast of Guangdong province.
However, it will not use Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 810 chipset or a 2K (2560x1440) screen – the kind of specs typically found on high-end Chinese phones - but will feature significant upgrades, Li added.
"We plan to build up the image of the PRO brand so it attracts smartphone users at the top of the market who love extreme sport and have a strong character, but who are also quite fashionable," Li said.
The phone will be launched in the US, Russia, Hong Kong and a number of developed economies later this year, the company said in a surprise announcement. Meizu already sells three models in India for under US$300.
Although it is not a well-known brand outside China, Meizu has built quite a strong reputation in China for its powerful handsets and low price tags.
Alibaba announced in February that it was making a US$590 million investment in Meizu, which gave it an undisclosed stake.
Meizu launched a trendy smartphone in Beijing in July, the m2, and announced a sales record in the second quarter as it continues to slowly close the gap with its top domestic rivals.
CEO Bai Yongxiang revealed that Meizu sold 8.9 million smartphones in the first six months of 2015, marking year-on-year growth of 540 per cent.
He predicted the company would sell more than 20 million smartphones this year.