Chinese tech giants seek slice of UK phone market
Oppo and Xiaomi among the firms eyeing moves into Britain, despite stagnant smartphone sales
A CLUTCH of Chinese smartphone giants are scoping UK launches as the technology giants look for a slice of Britain’s premium phone market.
Oppo, China’s second-largest smartphone vendor, quietly launched a UK arm in February, according to filings on Companies House. The move is thought to be part of plans to launch in Europe this summer.
An Oppo spokesman refused to comment on whether its phones would be coming to the UK, although he confirmed that multiple European launches were on the horizon for later this year.
Based in Dongguan, north of China’s answer to Silicon Valley, Shenzhen, Oppo would be the latest Chinese giant to challenge Europe’s smartphone market.
“Oppo ended 2017 as a top-five smartphone manufacturer in volume terms,” CCS Insight analyst Ben Wood told The Sunday Telegraph.
“The challenge is building a brand presence in a tough market like the UK which is already completely saturated.”
Smartphone sales in Europe are stagnant, but Chinese vendors, although not yet household names, have had some success at displacing Apple and Samsung as leading brands in some countries.
Analysts see the UK as particularly brand-loyal to models like Apple’s iphone and Samsung’s Galaxy handsets, while smartphone purchases are dominated by contracts through the major phone networks.
Despite the challenge, Beijing-based smartphone company Xiaomi, China’s third-largest smartphone vendor by volume, will also arrive in the UK later this year through Three Mobile. The company, which was only founded in 2012, is planning a $100bn (£74bn) listing in Hong Kong.
Mr Wood added: “It is little surprise that companies such as Oppo and Xiaomi are looking to expand their horizons into Western European markets as they max out in their home Chinese markets.”
Oppo is already planning to launch in Spain this summer and is expected to launch in half a dozen new European markets this year.
Another Chinese challenger, Oneplus, is set to release its latest smartphone, the Oneplus 6, at an event in London on Wednesday evening.
The launch is understood to be accompanied by a major marketing push by the Shenzhen-based company, which has found success selling premium smartphones that undercut models from rivals, relying on viral marketing and social media campaigns.
Chinese companies see Europe as an attractive alternative as they are kept from the US market by loyal iphone users and protectionist politics.
Huawei is the world’s third-largest smartphone brand, but has largely been refused entry to the US after its deals with networks fell through over security fears.
But in Europe, Huawei has seen a 38pc surge in sales, despite falling smartphone demand in Western countries.
“This is a new era for smartphones in Europe,” said Canalys analyst Ben Stanton.
‘The challenge is building a brand presence in a tough market like the UK which is already completely saturated’