Smartphones are a highly competitive industry, with brand-name juggernauts competing for position across the globe in quarterly reports. The market however has been favourably trending towards “mid-range” or “bill-of-material” companies; smartphone manufacturers that are selling high-end premium devices, or devices very near in hardware specs to high-end premium devices, at reduced costs to the consumer, compared to global giants like Samsung, Huawei, Sony, etc.
2018 will be an interesting year for the smartphone market, as numerous mid-range companies have found greater establishment in 2017, and are poised to be rising giants by the end of 2018. It seems like high price-tag, premium devices have become somewhat of a niche, as a majority of Android users are satisfied with mid-range hardware. You only need 2GB of RAM and a data connection to play games like Short Life and Sniper titles, so luxury specs are exactly that – a luxury. As the market trends towards almost-high-end devices for the budget-conscious consumer, these are the top mid-range smartphone companies to watch in 2018.
Founded in 2012 under the umbrella of China-based cellphone manufacturer Transsion Holdings, Infinix Mobile found great success in Middle Eastern and African countries through its early years. In 2017, they gained third place market share in Egypt, behind cellphone juggernauts Samsung and Huawei. Infinix Mobile offers four product lines – Zero (their flagship line), Spark, Note, and Hot.
The latest flagship model, the Infinix Zero 5, launched in November of 2017 and was met with satisfactory reviews across many gadget websites. Infinix Mobile’s current strength, similar to other brands in this article, is their budget-priced, yet premium-performing devices.
The Infinix Zero 5, for example, was launched at a price of around $250 USD, with 128GB of internal memory, 6GB of RAM, and a 12mp/13mp dual camera. The Samsung Galaxy J7 Pro, which falls in the same price range, only offers 32GB of internal memory, 3GB of RAM, and a 13mp dual camera.
Infinix phones are currently available for purchase through online websites only – they have no physical stores anywhere in the world. This has not hurt their growth, however, as I previously mentioned their continuously growing market expansion.
Xiaomi was founded in 2011 and has expanded to become the 5th largest smartphone company in the world. The company accomplished this by selling their devices at “bill-of-material” prices, while having competitive hardware specs to premium branded smartphones. Due to this business model, Xiaomi rapidly become the largest smartphone company in 2014, and has captured the Indian market, overtaking Samsung in that country, and has expanded into other Asian countries as well.
Oppo is another Chinese smartphone manufacturer that has a history of imitating flagship designs from other companies, and then selling the devices at half the price. Their latest device, the Oppo R11s, is an Android-based clone of the iPhone X – even being reviewed as “the Android phone for people who like iOS”. This is because the imitation extends to Oppo’s operating system, known as ColorOS – the latest version of ColorOS looks and feels almost exactly like Apple’s iOS 11.
Thus, Oppo has established itself as a brand for people who want the sleek and premium design of more established brand names, while on a budget. So while Oppo’s phones may look and feel exactly like an iPhone X or Samsung Galaxy S8, for example, the hardware specs are slightly less than those phones.
Despite being known for design imitation, Oppo has attempted to distinguish itself as a “camera phone” maker, by selling models such as the Oppo F1s Selfie Expert, and just generally marketing heavily around the cameras in their devices. They’ve also partnered with several celebrities around numerous Asian countries to market these selfie-focused phones, as seen below.
This has led to a surge in popularity amongst youth in numerous Asian countries, but most particularly the Philippines. The F1 Selfie Expert propelled Oppo to become the 2nd top-selling smartphone in the Philippines, for example, which is known as the “selfie capital of the world”.
UmiDigi is another Chinese manufacturer with a history of borrowing design from other smartphone companies. The UmiDigi S2 and S2 Pro released in 2017, for example, were very much influenced by the Samsung Galaxy S8 design. However, they are seeking to expand past the China market in a major way, by releasing the Umidigi Z2 sometime this year, which will reportedly be the world’s first 6.2” FHD + notch display phone.
MobiDigi has also reportedly adopted 5A/15W charging tech for this flagship device, which could mean 0% to full battery in under an hour, and leads to further rumours if the device will be using Qualcomm Snapdragon chipsets for the Quick Charge technology.
There’s no shortage of rumours surrounding UmiDigi’s flagship launch this year, so it will be interesting to see if the device lives up to the hype surrounding it, and whether it will be competitive on the world stage.
Coolpad Group Limited made a name for themselves in China throughout 2012 to 2014, being the largest domestic brand in terms of sales during that time period. However, Coolpad seemingly fell off the map, losing a total of 41% in revenue throughout 2015 – they haven’t recovered their market share since, and have yet to climb past the entry and mid-tier smartphones market.
Coolpad managed to separate itself from LeEco several weeks ago – LeEco being China’s debt-ridden tech giant that has filed for liquidation of many assets, including stakeholder shares in Coolpad. With LeEco off Coolpad’s back, it seems the company will have an easier time raising funds for future development – in fact, Coolpad received $300 million USD in funding to focus on AI technology, which Coolpad claims will be used in a line of high-end smartphones to be developed.
If things go well, Coolpad could become a massive force in the Chinese smartphone market once again, and then focus on domestic sales, like a phoenix rising from the ashes.