China smartphone


[Report Highlights] Huawei Kirin Chip Renaissance and New Smartphone Surges

  1. Huawei sticks to a low-key strategy, opting for understated smartphone launches.

Contrary to expectations, the recent Huawei Autumn 2023 Launch Conference took an unexpectedly subdued tone. The much-anticipated Mate 60 Pro, believed to be the star of the show, received only a brief mention, leaving enthusiasts and industry watchers surprised.

This strategic shift can be deciphered by considering Huawei’s established strong brand loyalty among Chinese consumers. Previously hampered by the unavailability of 5G chips due to U.S. trade restrictions, Huawei has managed to overcome these hurdles. The recent successful sales of its new devices in China suggest that a flamboyant presentation of specifications at launch events might not yield substantial benefits. In fact, it could inadvertently be interpreted as a provocation amid the escalating tensions between the U.S. and China.

Therefore, in light of the strained bilateral relations, it is projected that Huawei will continue adopting a discreet approach, with future smartphone releases likely avoiding the spotlight at launch events.

  1. Maturation of the smartphone industry poses challenges for brands seeking innovation.

Despite Huawei’s success in developing its own 5G-compatible chips amidst U.S. sanctions, the latest smartphone lack groundbreaking features. Innovations such as satellite communication or advanced camera modules (with periscope lenses and variable apertures) are conspicuously absent. Even in the flagship Mate 60 RS model, the emphasis shifts to the distinctive ceramic material on the back shell.

  1. Anticipated rise in China’s domestic production ratio.

Before the U.S. sanctions, Huawei heavily relied on foreign suppliers for smartphone components, including RF, baseband, memory, and sensor chips, complementing its self-developed Kirin chips. However, the restrictive policy have compelled Huawei to shift its dependency to domestic Chinese manufacturers.

In the nearly three-year period from the imposition of U.S. sanctions to the recent release of Huawei’s new 5G smartphone, the industry expected Huawei and its supply chain to suffer severe setbacks. However, the China-made ratio of components in Huawei’s new smartphone currently stands at an impressive 90%, with only the DRAM incorporating SK Hynix products.

With Huawei’s return, it is poised to catalyze growth throughout its supply chain. The ongoing trajectory suggests a continual increase in the domestic production ratio of future devices in China.


[News] Chinese Smartphone Demand Stimulate Orders for IC Manufacturers

Non-Apple IC manufacturers are reporting positive business performance this quarter. Chinese brands are experiencing a revival driven by the release of new Huawei smartphones, and a resolution in inventory clearance in emerging markets. This has led to an increase in orders. Additionally, Samsung’s success in foldable phones is contributing to the upsurge. This overall trend is benefiting companies like MediaTek and Novatek in the smartphone-related IC manufacturing sector.

As reported by CTEE, China holds about 25% of the global smartphone market, with industry analysts predicting sales of 260 million units in China for 2023. Huawei’s re-entry into the smartphone market will significantly impact the smartphone SoC market share in 2024. This development will challenge Apple’s market share in China, and Huawei’s upcoming Nova mid-range smartphones will also affect brands like Honor, OPPO, Vivo, Xiaomi, and others, as they vie for market share.

Key drivers of the smartphone industry’s recovery

According to Economic Daily News, many Chinese smartphone brands are optimistic about the local market’s improvement following the launch of Huawei’s new smartphones. Beyond flagship models like the Mate 60, mid-range series like Nova are also showing increased activity. Leading non-Apple smartphone manufacturers are gearing up for a surge in demand and are actively stocking up on top-tier flagship chips, thus stimulating the supply chain’s demand for additional orders.

At the same time, Taiwanese manufacturers mention that Chinese smartphone brands that primarily target emerging markets have already digested their accumulated inventory and are now starting to replenish their stocks. Some smartphone-related chip manufacturers have also pointed out that Samsung and other Korean smartphone giants are enjoying good sales of foldable phones and have recently conveyed messages about increasing orders.

TrendForce notes that the current revival on demand side in the global smartphone market is primarily driven by inventory restocking. The potential for sustained orders remains uncertain due to the prevailing economic challenges.

(Image: MediaTek)

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[News] Xiaomi’s Second Chip Company Founded with a Capital of 3 Billion Yuan

As reported by Jiwei, Beijing Xuanjie Technology Co., Ltd. has recently been established, and its legal representative is Xuezhong Zeng, who holds the position of Senior Vice President at Xiaomi Corporation. The company has registered capital amounting to 3 billion Yuan and is involved in activities related to IC design services and product sales, among other areas.

This marks the second “Xuanjie Technology” venture within the Xiaomi family. Back in December 2021, Shanghai Xuanjie Technology Co., Ltd. was established, also under the legal representation of Zeng. The company’s scope of operations encompasses technological services in the semiconductor field, integration of information systems, IC design and service related, and product sales. All of these are fully owned by X-Ring Limited.

Xiaomi, alongside OPPO and VIVO, among other Chinese smartphone brands, often find it challenging to independently develop advanced system on a chip (SoC) due to constraints in technical expertise and financial resources. Consequently, their primary focus on developing specialized chips like power management integrated circuits (PMICs) and Image Signal Processor (ISP), based on their collective experience in chip development.

Xiaomi stands out as the sole Chinese brand among these peers, having successfully launched its self-developed SoC in 2017, known as the “Surge S1,” which was integrated into the mid-range Xiaomi 5C. Nevertheless, the Xiaomi 5C fell short of expectations, mainly due to the absence of distinguishing features in the “Surge S1.” Many reviews highlighted subpar real-world performance of Xiaomi phones equipped with the S1 chip.

Subsequently, Xiaomi did not introduce a successor chip. In 2021, they introduced the ISP chip “Surge C1” and the charging chip “Surge P1.” In 2022, they rolled out the PMIC G1, emphasizing its significant potential in enhancing battery health, accurate battery life predictions, and overall smartphone battery performance.

Xiaomi’s President, Weibing Lu, has previously reaffirmed the company’s unwavering commitment to developing in-house chips. They fully acknowledge the long-term and intricate nature of chip development, respect the established development patterns in the industry, and remain prepared for a long-term strategy, all with the ultimate goal of enhancing the competitiveness and user experience of their end products.
(Image: Xiaomi)


[News] Huawei’s Strategic Stockpiling: Aiming for 70 Million Smartphone Shipments

According to Jiwei, Huawei has been actively amassing an inventory of essential components, with the objective of doubling its smartphone shipments next year, targeting a range of 60 to 70 million units.


Labor Costs, Geopolitics, Pandemic, Chinese Mobile Phone Brands Accelerate Deployment of Overseas Production

Chinese smartphone brands such as Xiaomi, OPPO, and Vivo all have their own production lines. In recent years, these brands have accelerated their overseas deployment due to rising labor costs in China, growing geopolitical risk factors, and the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only will Xiaomi produce mobile phones in Vietnam, but the company will also continue to expand production lines in India and Indonesia in the coming years. OPPO has also set up factories in countries including India, Indonesia, and Turkey to meet the needs of neighboring markets. Vivo has successively set up factories in India, Bangladesh, and Indonesia, and initiated its production lines in Turkey and Pakistan in 2021. Since current trends have the Chinese market declining more than the global market, OPPO and Vivo’s proportion of overseas production capacity is expected to increase gradually. As for Xiaomi, which has always been active in overseas markets, the company will continue to expand its production capacity in India and Vietnam.

Xiaomi’s achievements in expanding overseas markets are most outstanding, OPPO following suit, Vivo rushing to catch up

From the perspective of Chinese brands, Xiaomi has been deeply involved in overseas markets for many years. Its overseas revenue was only RMB9.1 billion in 2016, but by 2018, overseas revenue had exceeded RMB70 billion. Xiaomi currently has a market share varying between 10 and 25% in Europe, India, Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines. On the other hand, OPPO has been tackling overseas markets aggressively since 2018, and currently has a market share between 10-15% in India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines. As for Vivo’s late start, its market share in India, Pakistan, and the Philippines is approximately 10-15%.

If the overall market is divided into the Chinese market and the non-Chinese market, shipments from Xiaomi, OPPO, and Vivo to the non-Chinese market are estimated to account for 74%, 66%, and 46% of total shipments, respectively, in 2021. Since China’s smartphone shipments may decrease by 16% in 2022, and recovery is limited in the short term, Xiaomi, OPPO, and Vivo are expected to focus more on overseas markets in the future and the proportion of non-Chinese market shipments is expected to increase further.

(Image credit: Pexels)

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