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Chinese brands dominate global smartphone sales

Chinese brands dominate global smartphone sales. Science & Technology World Website

A worker tests OPPO F1S smartphones at an OPPO smartphone factory in Tangerang, Indonesia, September 20, 2016.

Chinese smarphone vendors were an industrial driving force last year, reaching record volumes for global shipments, research has found.

According to Counterpoint Technology Market Research, global shipments of smartphones in 2016 reached nearly 1.5 units.

Chinese brands accounted for one third, shipping 465 million units around the globe.

Producing more than three quarters of all phones shipped in 2016, companies Huawei, Oppo, Vivo and Gionee were the highest selling.

The research also noted that the market's polarization of growth was more distinct this year as the leading brand Oppo witnessed a 109 percent increase from the year before, while Lenovo suffered an 80 percent slump.

Research director James Yan said: "The final quarter of the year was marked with a series of flagship upgrades from key brands such as Apple, Oppo, Huawei and Xiaomi which catalyzed the smartphone demand in China, healthier than last year."

Yan said the Chinese smartphone market saw a continuous rise in shipments as OEMs also began to fill channels ahead of the Chinese New Year season.

"In terms of features, key focus remained on proliferation of smartphones with fingerprint sensors, 4G+/VoLTE ready, fast-charging, OLED displays, improved battery life, adoption of dual-rear-cameras and higher megapixel front-camera for selfies," Yan added.

Another global research firm International Data Corporation (IDC) has also found similar trends.

According to IDC, the new trend "shows the growing local acceptance of Chinese vendors in its home country with the improvement in product features and better marketing messages seen in the past year".

IDC senior market analyst Tay Xiaohan said: "Increased dependence on mobile apps has led consumers to seek phone upgrades, thus helping drive the large growth in the fourth quarter of 2016. In lower tiered cities, there was a similar demand by consumers, which OPPO and vivo met by aggressively pushing mid-range smartphones in these cities."

The company also pointed out another key trend in 2016 was the slowdown of the growth of online channels in China.

"Most brands are now using a combination of channels to increase their shipments," IDC noted.

"Xiaomi, previously focused on online channels, has opened more Mi Home stores to drive offline growth and Apple has also been aggressive in increasing its offline retail presence, while to differentiate itself from OPPO and vivo, who predominantly target young users, Gionee has been targeting professionals and executives, and hence found a niche market for itself to stand out against its two competitors."

Huawei is definitely bringing Amazon's Alexa to the Mate 9

Huawei is definitely bringing Amazon's Alexa to the Mate 9. Science & Technology World

One of Huawei's biggest priorities when building its Mate 9 was shoehorning some handy machine learning features into to it. The end result? A machine learning algorithm designed to improve performance by finding the patterns in how you use the phone and allocating resources like RAM accordingly. Turns out Huawei's AI ambitions don't end there: a spokesperson confirmed to Engadget that the Mate 9 will receive a software update that brings Amazon's Alexa to that surprisingly slick phablet.

We're not entirely sure of the timing yet, but we can confirm that the update will roll out in the US (obviously) and a handful of other markets. Either way, this is a big step for Huawei and for Amazon; the former gets to sell the first properly Alexa-enabled smartphone and Amazon gets the chance to forge a partnership with one of the biggest smartphone makers in China by volume. Alexa-enabled devices like the Echo and Echo Dot aren't available in China's site, but this could be a pretty effective trojan horse if and when Amazon makes that move.

By now, it's all too common to see virtual assistants baked into smartphones -- Apple has Siri, Google has its Assistant and Samsung will have... something better than S Voice when the Galaxy S8 launches. Most of those assistants wound up working on their respective smartphones by way of acquisitions, but Huawei's approach closely mirrors what we've seen from many, many other companies at CES this year. Because Amazon has been so open with letting hardware makers run integrate Alexa, we've started to see a glut of devices go with "her" to enable voice commands. Cronologics' Alexa-powered smartwatch launched earlier this year (it was alright), and here in Vegas, Alexa is making "her" way into everything fromDVRs to appliances.

Oppo plans $216 million industrial park in Greater Noida

Oppo plans $216 million industrial park in Greater Noida. Science & Technology World Website

Betting big on the booming Indian smartphone market, Chinese smartphone maker Oppo is planning an industrial park in Greater Noida which will house a manufacturing unit. 

"We already have a production unit in India and the SMT (surface-mount technology) centre is now undergoing the furnishment...it will be finished in February. Also, with regard to the industrial park, we will have the agreement signing press conference at the end of next month," Sky Li, vice president of Oppo and managing director of international mobile business and President of Oppo India. 

He said the industrial park is spread over 1,000 acres and entails investment of about 1.5 billion RMB (Renminbi) yuan or about USD 216 million. 

Oppo already has manufacturing operations in Noida.

Exuding confidence on the company's positioning in the Indian market on the strength of products like Selfie Expert smartphones, Li said Oppo will focus on user experience for gaining marketshare. 

"Unlike many other companies we do not pursue high volume of shipments or scale of our enterprise...but we focus on creating strong products for users...We are creating a trend for the industry and many are following our footsteps on the selfie functionality. Our positioning (in the market) is correct and precise, and that is giving credit to our market research," Li said. 

India has overtaken the US in 2016 to become the world's second-largest smartphone market with an installed base of 275 million devices, according to global industry body GSMA. 

GSMA has predicted that India -- which is currently also the second-largest mobile market globally -- will have nearly one billion mobile subscribers by 2020, from 616 million unique users in June 2016. 

GSMA forecasts that improving affordability, falling device prices and operator investments in network coverage and quality would help deliver an additional 330 million unique subscribers in India by 2020, lifting the country's penetration rate to 68 per cent of the population (up from 47 per cent in 2015). 

Given the ongoing technology shift to mobile broadband services, the number of 3G/4G mobile broadband connections is forecast to reach more than 670 million by 2020.



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