China’s Huawei and ZTE up their game at CES 2016 to rid image as budget smartphone vendors, bid for global domination

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 January, 2016, 8:15pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 January, 2016, 8:15pm

Huawei Technologies, China’s largest telecommunications equipment supplier, is betting on the shiny new flagship smartphone, tablet and smartwatch it launched at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas on Wednesday to bolster its credentials as a premium consumer brand.

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ZTE, its close rival in China, has also announced an aggressive international expansion plan, and its next flagship smartphone is on the way.

The pair have already released some high-end smartphones but mostly only in China. In 2016, they are ready to go global.

Richard Yu, the chief executive of Huawei’s consumer business group, expressed confidence in the Shenzhen-based company’s strategy as he said Huawei was in a position to become the world’s No. 2 smartphone brand in two years. It now ranks as No. 3 after Samsung and Apple, according to research firm IDC.

Huawei launched its Mate 8 at CES, which it said “features the world’s most advanced smartphone technology ever.” The phone has a 6-inch display, full metal body and one of the fastest new mobile chips.

The company introduced a collection of flashy products at CES including a gold version of its Nexus 6P, the flagship phone Google chose to show off its Android system and smartwatches featuring crystals by Swarovski.

Huawei now controls 9 per cent of the global smartphone market, according to research company GFK. Richard Yu believes Huawei’s compass will extend to 15 per cent by 2018.

Meanwhile, ZTE’s high-end brand Nubia announced the opening of its global online store and plans to expand to Europe, Latin America and Southeast Asia. It said it will reveal its new flagship smartphone in the coming months.

READ MORE: Huawei first Chinese company to sell 100m smartphones in a year as sales jump 44 per cent in 2015

In an earlier interview, Nubia said it plans to release its next premium phone in China and US at the same time. One problem that Chinese smartphone makers face when they enter foreign markets is that they must wait for time-consuming local tests.

Nubia said it is developing a US version of its popular Z11.

“Huawei and ZTE are in a good place to expand globally,” said Alex Ng, an analyst from China Merchant Securities.

“They have rich experience in making telecoms equipment, which means they have forged solid relationships with carriers and have amassed a rich collection of intellectual property.”

“Their global growth is mainly from emerging and low-end markets, where people cannot afford Samsung and Apple,” said Ng.

“For the high-end markets, it still takes years to build up a good product image and compete with other big players.”