Chinese brands prepare full-screen smartphone launches to compete head-to-head with Apple’s iPhone 8

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 September, 2017, 3:02am
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 September, 2017, 10:13pm

China’s top smartphone brands are lining up to launch their own full-screen models, in an attempt to steal the thunder of Apple’s much-hyped tenth anniversary edition, or the “iPhone 8”, set to be released on September 12.

Apple has sent out much-prized media invitations for what will be the first ever event to be held in the Steve Jobs Theatre, at its new campus named “Spaceship” in Silicon Valley.

Guests will be presented with an upgraded version of the current iPhone 7 series, as well the widely anticipated tenth-year anniversary edition, that comes with major new designs including an edge-to-edge screen without a “home” button in sight.

On Wednesday, Chinese maker Xiaomi, the country’s fifth domestic player according to second quarter shipments recorded by China’s Counterpoint Research, announced it will release its “Mi Mix 2” scheduled in Beijing on September 11, which will be an upgraded version of its last year’s bezel-free “Mi Mix”, that features a 6.4-inch screen with almost 85 per cent screen-to-body ratio.

The firm said on its official Sina Weibo account it was now fully in into “the full-screen handset era”, after releasing the bezel-free Mi Mix in October, 2016, considered the first of its kind in the industry, and that its new model will bring about what it calls “evolution close to perfection”.

Vivo, considered China’s third largest smartphone brand, then announced on Thursday the imminent release of its own full-screen handset, the “X20”, to be marketed under the slogan “To see more”.

It did not specific any actual launch date but it is considered routine for the Shenzhen-based company, however, to reveal new phones in late September and analysts expect to see its latest product by the end of the month.

In late July, China’s largest smartphone maker Huawei’s mobile segment chief Yu Chengdong revealed its new “Mate 10”, which will be equipped with a home-made chip powered by artificial intelligence, as well as a full-sized screen without a button on its front, again seen as an attempt to spoil Apple’s anniversary show.

Huawei is expected to officially launch sales of the Mate 10 in Munich in Germany on October 16.

Gionee, another Shenzhen-based brand heavily promoted for its smartphone security functions and mainly targeting at business customers, also told the South China Morning Post it will launch its new bazel-less, edge-to-edge “M7” series in October.

Its Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Liu Lirong predicted in March that smartphone competition will shift emphasis from camera quality in the first half, to full-sized screen design in the second half.

“The trend for full-screen smartphones reflects user demand as a bigger screen will generally bring about a much better consumer experience,” Liu said then.

Zhao Ziming, a Beijing-based industry analyst, said September and October have always been golden months for Chinese smartphone releases, and their strategies to launch full-screen handsets to compete with Apple has become clear this year, with products generally being pitched at lower prices than the US giant.

“But Chinese smartphone makers are also trying to lift their prices this year, which might hurt growth of shipments for this year,” added Zhao.

“On the other hand, Apple fans have been waiting a long time for the new iPhone 8, so it might see another sales boost on the back of that.”

Chinese home-grown brands have been gaining ground in the world’s largest smartphone market, according to numbers from an independent technology analysts, Canalys, which suggest Huawei, Oppo, Vivo and Xiaomi were the country’s top four vendors domestically, in the second quarter.

Apple, whose market share has slipped to the fifth place in China during the past quarter, is reportedly releasing the new iPhone 8, starting at US$999.