Despite a Sluggish Smartphone Market, this Chinese Upstart Managed to Shine

A little-known Chinese smartphone maker, OPPO, is making heads turn in the global smartphone market whose growth is starting to cool after a frenetic few years.

Data from research company, International Data Corporation (IDC), released on Thursday showed noted a 136.6 percent increase from in shipment of smarphone by OPPO in April-June quarter compared to a year ago. The company shipped 22.6 million smartphones in the period.

OPPO has acquired the spot for the fourth-largest smartphone vendor in the world, ahead of famed brands Xiaomi, and Lenovo, which owns Motorola as the company held a global market share of 6.6 percent at the end of the second quarter according to the latest IDC numbers.

“Technology is so important to us. We are listening to our consumers and what they want in the devices, and designing the products based on [that],” Michael Tran, director of OPPO Mobile Australia, told CNBC on Friday.

Camera technology installed in its phones was one of the focus points of OPPO. For example, to appeal to users who enjoy taking “selfies”, a 16 megapixel front-facing camera, with various light settings and noise-reduction technology is available on one of its popular smartphone models, the “R9”.

“We are investing into research and development for our camera technology. We want to be known as the camera phone,” said Tran.

In the first quarter of 2016, both Lenovo and Xiaomi were pushed out of IDC’s top five smartphone vendors by shipment by OPPO, along with another little-known Chinese smartphone maker, vivo. In the second quarter, vivo’s shipments reached 16.4 million units noting a 80.2 percent growth year-on-year.

Noting a growth of just 0.3 percent on-year, smartphone vendors shipped 343.3 million smartphones in the April-June period globally, IDC said. However shipments climbed 3.1 percent on a quarter-on-quarter basis.

IDC said that the sale of OPPO’s flagship “R9” phone was boosted by aggressive marketing and advertising. The IDC further noted that Tier 3 to Tier 5 cities in China, which significantly contributed to OPPO’s growth, were leveraged the strength of the company.

Foreign geographies in Asia, such as India, and other emerging markets saw OPPO expanding rapidly, said Strategy Analytics in a separate report released Wednesday.

The market leader in global smarphone manufacturing and shipment, Samsung, had a market share of 22.4 percent, thanks to the popularity of its latest flagship “Galaxy S7” and “S7 edge” models and shipped 77 million handsets in the second quarter and OPPO has a long way to go to catch up Samsung despite its promising prospect.

Holding 11.8 percent of the market, second-placed Apple shipped 40.4 million handsets for the same period. However it is estimated that users are awaiting a new iPhone model expected to be released in the next quarter and have hence delaying their purchase.

With a 9.4 percent share of the market, Huawei shipped out 32.1 million units between April-June, according to IDC data, and the company recently said its smartphone shipments for the first half of the year jumped 25 percent on –year.

There are “emerging signs that the global smartphone market has reached a bottom in the first half of 2016”, said Strategy Analytics’ Linda Sui said in the Wednesday report signaling a more positive note.

“The growth outlook for the second half of this year is brighter due to multiple big new product launches from Samsung, Apple and others,” said Sui.

(Adapted from CNBC)

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