A Chinese smartphone drill in progress

A Chinese smartphone drill in progress
by Don Dingee on 07-27-2016 at 4:00 pm

One of our astute readers caught what looks like a major gaffe in the Linley Group mobile conference presentations from this week. It’s another indication of the speed of change in mobile markets and the instability that is giving Apple and others heartburn.

Here’s the chart in question:


The point of contention is who, exactly, are the China tier 1 vendors? Linley lists Huawei, Lenovo, Xiaomi, Yulong, and ZTE. As it turns out, that is outdated info according the IDC Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker:


Never heard of OPPO or vivo? I was flipping channels last night and saw some reality show where the participants were holding an OPPO phone. It turns out both brands are owned by BBK Electronics, and there’s a third brand coming soon called imoo. It’s insane how quickly these Chinese brands are appearing and disappearing on the top 5 mobile list, although OPPO and vivo have been out there for several years quietly building.

(For those not familiar with the title reference, a “Chinese fire drill” was a popular game among teenage drivers out on the town with their friends, where everyone would exit the car at a stoplight and run around it until the light turned green, and whomever was nearest the driver door jumped in and took control. Maybe we need to call it the “American fire drill” now.)

The importance of this list in the Linley argument is who is or may soon be doing their own LTE chipsets – a bullet on their slides says the top 3 plus “internal” make up 98% of mobile. Qualcomm still owns the high end, and MediaTek has surpassed the internal vendors: Apple, Huawei, and Samsung combined. We know Xiaomi has their soon-to-release “Rifle” chipset.

The days of premium mobile brands and high-end chipsets may be coming to a close, however, at least in terms of who makes the most money. Even Linley says that most of the remaining mobile growth is at the low end in developing countries, and that MediaTek and Spreadtrum are the primary beneficiaries of that trend.

In response, Qualcomm continues to push their offering lower, and made a compelling argument for a scalable LTE roadmap:


That’s why Qualcomm was all lathered up in their recent earnings report about unnamed Chinese companies not counting chips correctly – these numbers are starting to get pretty big. I suspect we’ll see more change in this in the coming quarters, it’s moved substantially since we published “Mobile Unleashed” about 8 months ago.