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Smartphone face-off: China phones take on the big guys

Posted: October 10, 2012

Boasting features comparable to the iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S III but retailing at half the price, new smartphones from China are good buys for the budget-conscious.

The "elites" such as Xiaomi's Mi2, Lenovo's K860, Huawei's Ascend D1 and ZTE's Grand Era have cutting-edge specifications that equal the Galaxy S III, currently Samsung's flagship smartphone. The China-made handsets run on Android OS and quad-core ARM processors, and have 4in+ LCD/AMOLED displays with a 720-pixel resolution, 8MP cameras with BSI and 1GB RAM. Models adopt top-brand components, including CPUs from TI, Samsung, Qualcomm and Nvidia, and displays from Sharp, Samsung and Toshiba, ensuring product quality. They retail between $300 and $400 in China, easily 50 percent lower than a Galaxy S III there.

For about 95 percent of China smartphone makers, Android is the way to go, with many utilizing version 2.3 or 4.0 in their devices.

Most large suppliers combine the Android OS with proprietary UI, widgets and mobile applications for differentiation. Xiaomi, Meizu and Lenovo, with their MIUI, Flyme and LeMagic, respectively, are such enterprises.

While Xiaomi, Meizu and other tier 1 companies focus on the domestic market, there are a growing number of China exporters turning out smartphones on a par with the big brands.

These companies leverage new chipset solutions from MediaTek to expand their low-end to midrange selections.

Corelink Industrial Co. Ltd and CEIEC are among such manufacturers. Both offer smartphones using Android 4.0 and single-core MediaTek MT6575 1GHz processors.

Huge domestic demand is driving the rapid advancement of China's smartphones industry. The country is expected to overtake the US this year to become the largest smartphone market in the world with a 26 percent share, according to IDC.

This robust environment has lured nearly all movers in the entire electronics industry, including vendors of telecom products, PCs, consumer electronics and even MP3 players. This in turn has resulted in continually rising investment in R&D and marketing activities.

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