In less than a week, some of the world’s biggest mobile players will be packed into the Fira de Barcelona convention center, ready to show off their latest generation of mobile devices. In previous years, this meant everything from Featured Samsung smartphone announcements And LG (RIP), smart watchesand even the launch of the first HTC Vive.
These days, however, things look a little different. Despite the “World” of the Mobile World Congress, the MWC Barcelona feels more and more turned towards Europe. The global smartphone market has never been a cohesive whole, but the US and China feel like they’re diverging from everywhere else more than ever. And that left MWC in a weird place.
I mean, just look at what we expect from Honor, Xiaomi and Realme:
- Honor — the international launch of the Honor Magic VS, a foldable device that released in China last November.
- Xiaomi — the international launch of the Xiaomi 13 series, which was released in China two months ago.
- Kingdom – the announcement of the Realme GT3, which was recently launched in China as a GT Neo 5.
In all three cases, these Chinese smartphone brands are all expected to re-announce handsets that have already launched in their home market. And those “global” launch claims are unlikely to extend to the United States, whose mobile market continues to be a hotspot. effective duopoly consisting of Apple and Samsung devices. Samsung didn’t announce any announcements ahead of the show, and Apple has never seriously participated in broader industry events like these.
Compared to a decade ago, Chinese brands increasingly dominate the global smartphone market. Finland’s Nokia and South Korea’s LG were the second and third largest mobile phone providers in 2012, according to IDCbut as their smartphone brands have faltered and completely disappearedChinese companies like Xiaomi and BBK Electronics (whose brands include Oppo, Vivo and OnePlus) have taken over.
Despite their international success, these Chinese brands are struggling to break into the United States. But it’s not for lack of trying. Honor and former parent company Huawei tried it half a decade ago, and the Oppo OnePlus sub-brand continues to sell its devices in the US – even though its latest OnePlus 11 handset is not sold by any major carriers. Lenovo continues to nudge Apple and Samsung through its Motorola brand, and there is also TCL to considerbut neither gained significant market share.
“We have fully understood the importance of the Chinese market and we realize that we need to invest more to face the fierce competition”
As the importance of Chinese manufacturers has increased, the number of smartphones debuting in China has also increased, only to maybe receive a global release months later. China is not only the national territory of these companies; it’s also a very lucrative market that requires prioritization, as Pete Lau, chief product officer of Oppo and co-founder of OnePlus, explained during a panel discussion last year. “We have fully understood the importance of the Chinese market and we realize that we need to invest more to face the fierce competition in this market,” Lau said through a translator, explaining the company’s decision. to prioritize the launch of the OnePlus 10. Pro for China before the West.
Software also plays a big role in why the Chinese smartphone market has become so distinct from the rest of the world. Despite the number of Android phones sold in China, none of them come with Google Mobile Services or the Google Play Store. This has resulted in an app ecosystem dominated by a few key local players like Tencent and ByteDance and distinct from what is available internationally.
As Honor CEO George Zhao explained to me last year, that means Chinese manufacturers like Honor can work with local developers to optimize their apps for new form factors like foldables. “We have very good relations with the [China-based] application providers,” Zhao explains. The result is a Chinese foldable market with a much better app ecosystem, and companies like Xiaomi and Vivo have launched foldable devices that have yet to see a release outside the country. It’s a different story internationally, where apps for foldables are facing a classic chicken and egg problem — even if Samsung and Google do their best to change things.
The US smartphone market is an efficient duopoly
At the other extreme, we have the United States, a market in which few phone makers have the resources to enter, let alone compete seriously. for its Phone 1 debut and why it is only now in a position to attempt to break into the market. “When you make a smartphone for the United States, you have to work with the carriers on certification and adapting some of their features to your operating system,” Pei said. said Reverse in an interview last month. “We didn’t have the resources for this before and now we have.”
Pei’s former OnePlus partner Pete Lau hinted at similar challenges last year, when he described “the longer software development process required for products in overseas markets,” meaning that OnePlus must “go through carrier technical approvals before it can sell the products.” That’s another reason why he says it makes sense to first launch OnePlus phones like the 10 Pro in China before bringing them to the rest of the world.
It’s also worth remembering that Huawei was starting to overtake both Apple and even Samsung before national security concerns prompted US government to sanction Chinese tech giant and kills the international competitiveness of its excellent android phones. Given history, it’s perhaps unsurprising that Chinese companies aren’t keen on becoming too dependent on the US market for their sales.
That leaves MWC Barcelona a bit stuck in the middle, filled with announcements of phones already publicly available in China and unlikely to see an official release in the US.
It’s not exactly a bad place for Europe. The mainland may not be swimming in high-end foldables like China, but the release of devices like the recent Oppo Find N2 Flip and to come Honor Magic VS suggest that Chinese brands are ready to give Europe a chance, even if they are not ready to make the leap to the United States. And Europe continues to benefit from essential applications and services from Google, which, despite his often chaotic approach to messagingare still pretty good overall.
Of course, not everything announced at MWC Barcelona will be a rehash. Far from there. Here are a few companies to watch:
- OnePlus showing off a new concept device based on the OnePlus 11which appears to have bright blue light bands on its back that the company describes as a “series of blood vessels”.
- Huawei hasn’t said much about what it plans to announce at MWC 2023, but said Fierce Wireless that it will be the Chinese tech giant’s “biggest year” at the show. Last year, his most interesting announcement was the MatePad paper equipped with E-inkwhich was new to the show.
- Honor plans to announce the brand new Magic5 Pro in addition to launching the foldable Magic VS internationally.
- HMD – the Finland-based company that produces Nokia phones – will be presentthough it’s unclear what he might announce to coincide with the show.
Trade shows like MWC have always been a reflection of the industry they serve – which means that in 2023 the event feels a bit fractured and dominated by Chinese brands who, for various reasons, don’t not present in the United States. Europeans will be spoiled for choice, so it’s a shame the same degree of competition isn’t coming for Americans tired of the Apple/Samsung duopoly.