Smartphones from China vendors continue to rise in popularity in Singapore, even though they have ways to go before catching up with premium favourites such as Apple and Samsung.
One in five smartphones sold here this year is from a China vendor - the first time combined Chinese manufacturer sales have crossed the 20 per cent mark, according to GfK Asia.
The market research firm's latest point-of-sales data shows China phones accounted for 21.6 per cent of the smartphones sold in Singapore between January and August, up from 15 per cent during the same period last year. In 2012, these phones made up only 4.3 per cent of all phone sales. This jumped to 14.6 per cent in 2015 and 17.8 per cent last year.
Shipment data from market research firm IDC reflects a similar trend - that Chinese companies such as Huawei, Oppo and Xiaomi are closing the gap with the big players. For the first half of 2017, overall smartphone shipments from all vendors was around 1.5 million in Singapore, according to IDC. Handsets from Chinese manufacturers made up 12 per cent of that overall figure.
Huawei and Xiaomi lead the pack for Chinese smartphone brands, with shipments coming in at 4.3 and 4.1 per cent respectively last quarter, according to IDC's data, with Oppo trailing behind.
Analysts say competitive pricing and specifications are the main reasons why Singapore consumers are warming up to Chinese brands.
"When it comes to innovation and quality, the Chinese brands are taking a shorter time to introduce new features, compared to the other more established brands. For instance, Huawei and Oppo launched dual cameras in their flagship models even before Samsung launched theirs," said Mr Gerard Tan, GfK Asia's senior director for technology retail tracking.
UP TO SPEED
When it comes to innovation and quality, the Chinese brands are taking a shorter time to introduce new features, compared to the other more established brands. For instance, Huawei and Oppo launched dual cameras in their flagship models even before Samsung launched theirs.
MR GERARD TAN, GfK Asia's senior director for technology retail tracking.
Chinese brands have started to significantly make an impact in the market, with three out of five of the top selling smartphone brands in Singapore now Chinese brands, he said.
The rising demand for Chinese handsets in Singapore follows global trends. More smartphones from Huawei, Oppo and Xiaomi were shipped in the second quarter of this year globally, compared with the same period in 2016, according to IDC's worldwide quarterly data.
The trio made up 25.6 per cent of global smartphone shipments during that period, beating Samsung's 23.3 per cent and Apple's 12 per cent.
Ms Tay Xiaohan, senior research manager for client devices at IDC Asia-Pacific, said that while numbers for China vendor smartphones are "growing", they are still very small compared to the overall market in Singapore.
"Samsung and Apple still dominate significantly in the Singapore market, making up more than 70 per cent of the overall market."
But such phones appeal to the budget-conscious crowd, as Chinese smartphone manufacturers tend to keep prices low. Xiaomi and Oppo's offerings start from as low as $169, while Huawei's premium phones, like the Mate 9 and P10 Plus, fall below $900.
"The aggressive pricing of these smartphones by China-based vendors as well as the high specifications that come with them attract consumers," said Ms Tay.
Former public servant Charlyn Tay, 29, picked up an Oppo F1s last year for less than $100 with a two-year contract. She was initially looking for a backup phone to tide her over until she bought a new one, but ended up liking it so much she has used it for more than a year.
"I needed a phone that served its function and wasn't too pricey," she said.
Other 2017 Chinese smartphones to consider
XIAOMI MI A1
Xiaomi's budget-friendly Mi A1 packs a whole lot of specs into a small, inexpensive body, as well as the latest Android operating system and software updates.
The Mi A1 has rear dual cameras and an all-metal design, along with a Snapdragon 625 processor - which makes its $349 retail price real value for money.
Most notably, the phone runs stock Android, save for some necessary tweaks to the camera app to support dual cameras. As such, the Mi A1's software is as how Google designed it to be, which includes benefits like monthly security updates and being among the first phones to receive operating system updates when they are launched.
The Mi A1 comes with 5.5-inch Full HD display, with 4GB of RAM and onboard 64GB storage and a microSD card slot. On its back are two shooters: one with wide angle lens, and the other telephoto. Both feature 12-megapixel sensors, while the front selfie camera has a 5-megapixel sensor.
The latest in Oppo's premium R-line of smartphones, the R11 is one of the company's most popular phones this year, with strong sales even months after its release.
Its main strength is its 20-megapixel front camera, which ups the selfie game of any user by a large margin. It also comes with a whole host of camera options, such as HDR and a faux-bokeh effect, for users to touch up their selfie shots.
It also has dual rear cameras, in 16-and 20-megapixels, and can also shoot 4K video, although it lacks optical image stabilisation.
While it does not have the sexy bezel-less, all-screen look that 2017 smartphones are heading towards, the R11 sticks to a tried-and-tested design that has proven popular over countless iterations.
It boasts a Snapdragon 660 processor, 4GB of RAM and 64GB onboard storage with an external microSD slot.
LENOVO VIBE P2
Lenovo's Vibe P2 is an efficient budget smartphone which stands out with its incredibly long-lasting battery life.
Housed within the P2's slim chassis is a massive 5,100mAh battery - easily 11/2 times bigger than standard battery offerings, which generally hover around or below the 3,500mAh baseline.
This gives it almost two days of use on a single charge if not used heavily, which is something modern smartphones all struggle to do.
The Vibe P2 sports a 5.5-inch Full HD Super Amoled display in an all-aluminium body, which comes with a power-saving switch on the side of the phone to draw out battery life even longer.
Its camera offering is just average, with a usable 13-megapixel rear shooter and a 5-megapixel front camera.
And as with a budget offering, the P2 runs on a Snapdragon 625 processor with 4GB of RAM, which is not lightning-fast but sufficient for ordinary, everyday use.