After the excitement of the past two years, when the leading smartphone makers unveiled their most creative models onto the market, the year 2014 is fast turning out to be a tepid anticlimax — if one looks at the features and designs of the latest offerings.
The situation, however, could provide an opportunity for Chinese handset makers to shine in the market with their low-cost, feature-rich products.
Samsung, the world’s largest mobile phone maker, unveiled its Galaxy S5 at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona earlier this week, and the unanimous response from market analysts was a big yawn. Some commentators even assailed the Korean giant for copying rivals’ features into its flagship models.
The S5′s dust- and water-resistant advantage, for example, has been a key selling point for Sony Corp.’s Xperia series for the past two years. The selective focus camera has long been available in Nokia Corp.’s Lumia models. Its health monitoring gimmick is already a popular item of waistband products, while its fingerprint authentication is an exact clone of Apple Inc.’s iPhone 5 series launched in September last year.
This is a clear case of constipated creativity. Suddenly, the leading lights of the industry appear to be struggling with a severe bout of mental block.
With most applications now available in app stores for downloading, smartphone makers are left with almost nothing to do but focus on improving hardware specifications such as screen size, camera resolution and speed of central processing unit to stand out in the crowd and attract users.
And as smartphones turn into ordinary commodities, price becomes an increasingly important factor.
That should be a good chance for Chinese handset makers to expand their presence in both the developed and emerging markets; they are known for producing models that offer better specifications and richer features with highly competitive pricing.
ZTE Corp. (0763.HK) has launched its latest flagship model, the Grand Memo II LTE, which is equipped with a six-inch monitor and a 13 megapixel camera. The phone also comes with battery-saving solutions that cut power consumption by 30 percent, allowing for 16 hours of continuous HD video playback. Such features have a good potential of challenging Samsung and Sony in the high-end segment, should ZTE manage to develop a strong retail and operators’ network to sell the units.
Meanwhile, Lenovo Group (0992.HK), China’s largest mobile phone maker, has come up with a series of mobile applications ranging from document editing and file transfer to a camera that runs across the Android and iOS platforms. By doing so, Lenovo is giving notice that it aims to be a major market player by switching its focus to software on top of the hardware.
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