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Top 10 Most Popular Smartphone Brands and Models in China (Summer 2018)

The ten most popular Chinese smartphone brands buzzing on social media.

Manya Koetse

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There is one topic that is always buzzing on Chinese social media: the latest smartphone trends. This is a top 10 of the most popular Chinese smartphone brands and their hottest models of the moment.

Update: Check out our Top 10 China’s Most Popular Smartphone Brands & Models (May/June 2019)

If last year’s major Chinese smartphone trends were all about the big, beautiful & bezel-less screens, this year they are more about nifty features such as turbo-speed for mobile gaming or pop-up cameras.

One major trend that is ongoing and crystal clear is that ‘made in China’ brands are dominating the smartphone and tablet market, with no less than 8 of the top 10 best-sold phones being Chinese brands.

The sales data of Chinese big online shopping festivals offer valuable insights into what brands and models are most appreciated by Chinese consumers. Last month, when e-commerce giant JD.com wrapped up its ‘Black Friday’-like “6.18” anniversary sales event with a record in transactions, Xiaomi and Honor were among the big winning brands in smartphone sales.

Looking at the most-popular smartphone brands and models lists according to Zol.com, leading IT portal website in China, the brands Oppo and Vivo have also continually remained in the top 3 of most popular smartphone brands in China over the previous weeks.

Based on these lists, we’ve compiled the following top 10 of most popular Chinese smartphone brands of the past month.

Note: we have excluded non-Chinese brands Samsung and iPhone from this Chinese brand list; they currently, respectively, hold the no3 and no7 position in expert top 10 most popular smartphones in China lists.

 

#1 Vivo

Vivo is a Chinese domestic brand that has gained worldwide success, first entering the market in 2009. Its headquarters are based in Dongguan, Guangdong. In 2017, Vivo launched its Vivo X20 Plus and VivoX20, the successor of best-seller Vivo X9.

Vivo often cooperates with Chinese celebrities in its marketing campaigns, such as Chinese singer and actor Lu Han (born 1990) or Chinese actress Zhou Dongyu (born 1992), clearly targeting the post-90s consumer group.

Lu Han for Vivo.

Vivo’s current best-seller in China is the Vivo Nex, a futuristic device that is thin but quite big and heavy (6.6-inch FHD+ AMOLED screen, 199 gram – which is just about the same as the Samsung Galaxy Note 8).

The Vivo Nex has a bezel-less screen and a nifty front-facing camera that is tucked away inside the upper frame of the phone and will automatically slide out when the camera is set to front-facing (according to AndroidAuthority, this takes less than a second). It also has a fingerprint sensor that is built into the display.

With the way it is designed, almost the entirety of the front of the phone is a giant 6.59-inch high-definition display.

On Weibo, the Vivo Nex is praised by netizens for offering a “top-notch” mobile gaming experience. People also specifically like the vibrant red edition of the device.

Within China, the phone is currently for sale from 3898 RMB (±US$600). In Europe and the US, unfortunately, the latest Vivo is not for sale just yet.

 

#2 Oppo

Oppo is a Guangdong-based brand officially launched in 2004. It is mainly known for targeting China’s young consumers with its trendy designs and smart marketing. In 2016, the brand was ranked as the number 4 smartphone brand globally.

In targeting young people, Oppo has a special focus on its selfie-making camera; both its front and back cameras are therefore strong.

Previous popular models include the Oppo R11s, which was a top-selling model with its all-screen ‘bezel-less’ display and latest facial recognition technology.

Currently, the hottest Oppo model that is also scoring the highest in top 10 lists is the Oppo Find X. The Find X has a beautiful glass body and a motorized camera – like the Vivo Nex, it also pops up and also functions as a 3D facial scanner for biometric authentication.

The Oppo Find X really has many nifty features (which also seems to be a major trend: the one-phone-has-it-all); the phone’s bezel-less panoramic screen is curved, there’s a dual-camera setup on the back (16MP + 20MP), 25MP front camera, dual SIM slots, etc. Also innovative: the device is available in the cool colors ‘Bordeaux Red’ and ‘Glacier Blue.’

On social media the phone is a hit, but its price is a source of complaints; the phone is available from ±5000 RMB (±US$750). “I could never afford it,” many people say.

 

#3 Honor 荣耀

Honor, established in 2013, is the budget-friendly sister of the Huawei brand. The company’s sub-brand has been doing very well over the past years. Rather than focusing on hyping up its brand name through celebrity campaigns, Honor focuses on great value for money.

Last year, the brand released its Honor V9 and Honor V9 Play models. This year, the Honor Play model (sold from 1999 RMB/US$300 on JD.com) is its most popular model (6.3-inch display).

With this latest model, Honor focuses on China’s booming mobile gaming market, as it comes with a ‘4D’ gaming experience with real-time recognition of the game scene that vibrates the phone to match.

On Weibo, people praise the phone for its speed. The color-loving phone users praise the purple edition of the device, which indeed is pretty fashionable.

 

#4 Huawei 华为

Huawei remains to be one of China’s top smartphone brands. Its 2016 Huawei Mate 9 and 2017 Huawei Mate 10 were top-selling; the current hit phone is the Huawei P20 pro.

The Huawei P20 is especially marketed for its camera functions. On Weibo, Huawei users praise this phone’s nightmode camera which is great to capture darker environments such as concerts or the city by night. Digital Trends even calls it “one of the best cameras ever put in a smartphone.”

The phone has a long-lasting battery and also noteworthy: it comes with one of the coolest color schemes ever inspired by the Northern Lights.

Like the Oppo Find X, this phone also does not come cheap; JD.com sells it from 5488 RMB (±US$827).

 

#5 Xiaomi 小米

Since the launch of its first smartphone in 2011, Beijing-brand Xiaomi has become one of the world’s largest smartphone makers.

The Xiaomi (Mi) brand was initially often called an ‘iPhone copycat,’ but it is now a trendsetting brand in the smartphone business. With its 2016 Mi Mix model, the brand was among the first to ditch thick bezels and go beyond the 16:9 aspect ratio to introduce the ‘all screen’ or ‘bezel-less’ screens, which are all the buzz now. The Mi Mix became one of last year’s hottest smartphones.

The Xiaomi 8 is promoted by Chinese actor Kris Wu as the “cool smartphone.” Not just cool because of how it looks, but also due to its dual frequency GPS tracking. It is priced starting from 2699 RMB (±US$406). (The upcoming Xiaomi Max 3 Pro is also one of the most-anticipated smartphones of this moment.)

 

#6 Meizu 魅族

Meizu is another Chinese homegrown brand, established by high school dropout Jack Wong (黄章) in 2003. Since then, it has grown out to be the 11th best-selling smartphone maker in the world.

The brand recently ranks in the top 10 of best smartphones in China, either on the 6th or 8th place.

The Meizu Pro 7 and the upcoming Meizu 16 are the phones that are currently most promoted by Meizu. The Pro 7 has a small colored screen on its back.

Despite its high ranking, Meizu is less popular among younger people and does not get a lot of attention on Weibo recently.

 

#7 OnePlus 一加

OnePlus is a Shenzhen based Chinese smartphone manufacturer founded by Pete Lau and Carl Pei in December 2013. The company officially serves 32 countries and regions around the world as of January 2018.

The OnePlus 6 is in the top three of most popular phones in China at this moment.

 

#8 LeNovo 联想

Lenovo Group Ltd. or Lenovo PC International, often shortened to Lenovo, is a Chinese multinational technology company with headquarters in Beijing, China and Morrisville, North Carolina.

Outside of China, the brand is more commonly associated with laptops rather than smartphones, but in China, the LeNovo Z5 flagship device currently scores number 8 in the top 10 smartphone lists.

The phone is an attractive device within the more budget-friendly category; it starts at 1299 RMB (±US$195).

 

#9 Qiku 360手机

The Qiku (360手机) brand was founded in 2015 in Shenzhen as a joint effort between Chinese internet giant Qihoo 360 and manufacturer Coolpad.

The N7 model (360手机N7) is their 2018 flagship model and is available from 1699 RMB (±US$256) for the 64GBmodel. ALong with the latest trends, it has a curved glass, fast charging, and long-lasting battery.

 

#10 Smartisan 坚果

Smartisan is a Beijing-based tech company founded in 2012. Its Smartisan R1 flagship model is promoted as “the computer of the future,” and GSMarena even calls this phone “record-breaking” with “top-notch specs and an amount of memory no other device in the market can match” (the most expensive version of ±$1400 comes with 1TB internal memory!)

All in all, when it comes to the latest trends in Chinese smartphones, it is all about the more advanced functions.

For those going for GPS tech, there’s Xiaomi, for camera lovers, there’s Huawei’s latest, for gaming fans, there’s Honor, for data-heavy users, Smartisan’s a (pricey) option, but for people loving overall innovative design, Vivo and Oppo are the winners this summer.

Update: Check out our Top 10 China’s Most Popular Smartphone Brands & Models (May/June 2019)

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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3 Comments

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China Digital

From Red Packet to Virtual Hongbao: Lucky Envelopes in China’s Digital Era

Raising virtual cows, shaking with phones – this is the Chinese New Year tradition of giving red envelopes in the digital era.

Things That Talk

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The custom of giving out red paper envelopes has evolved into a world of virtual lucky money and online games. This is the transformation of a Chinese New Year’s tradition, reported by Koen van der Lijn and Xiaojun Zhang.

 
When objects meet social media, two websites meet as well. This is a collaboration between What’s on Weibo and Things That Talk (follow on Insta @thingsthattalk).
 

Ever wanted to raise a digital cow? This year, you can raise your own lucky cow (福牛) for Chinese New Year on Weibo. Through maintaining and raising their virtual cow (or ox), users can participate in this online game to win red envelopes, a well-known and beloved tradition linked to Chinese New Year.

The hashtag “Lucky Cow’s New Year’s Travelogue” (#福牛新春旅行记#) is linked to Weibo’s celebration of Chinese Spring Festival and the Year of the Ox. Users are expected to be active on Weibo daily to raise their cow/ox, similar to the once so popular Tamagotchi. Whilst leveling up their cow, users get the possibility to earn digital red envelopes.

The online game is another development in the story of the red envelopes, known in China as hongbao (红包). Often given during Chinese New Year, the envelopes can also be given at other joyous occasions like weddings. These red envelopes are given to each other by friends and family members to wish each other a happy new year and are always filled with an amount of money.

Red envelopes for sale via Taobao.

The practice of giving money during Chinese New Year goes far back in Chinese history. The earliest form of the red envelope is said to be yasuiqian (压祟钱). In order to keep evil spirits away, called sui (祟), people put money underneath children’s pillow since the evil spirits were said to be warded off by coins.1 These coins were woven together using a string.

Yasuiqian

As time went by and paper money and envelopes became more widespread, string and coins were replaced and the red envelope was created.

Red envelopes are used by Chinese all over the world nowadays. The amount of money inside depends on many factors. Recently, the tradition has left behind its tangible form and entered the digital era.

 

“Adding the thrill of gambling to the practice of giving away red envelopes”

 

In 2014, the popular Chinese messaging app WeChat (微信) launched a new function that allowed users to send virtual red envelopes. Users could send an amount of money directly to another user, or an amount of red envelopes could be sent into a groupchat. When the function launched, users worldwide could shake their phones in order to receive free red envelopes. The amount of money that was given to users surpassed 500 million yuan ($77.5 million).

WeChat’s inventive idea put digital red envelopes on the map in China. During the peak of the event, 800 million shakes were recorded per minute. There were two types of envelopes introduced in 2014 by Tencent, the company that owns WeChat:

1. A regular red envelope that could be sent directly from one user to another.
2. A ‘group’ red envelope, with a limited number to be grabbed and a limited sum of money which can be grabbed by all users in a group if they are fast enough. The sum inside this envelope is randomized, adding the thrill of gambling to the practice of giving away red envelopes.

Other companies also wanted a piece of the digital red envelope cake: Weibo and AliPay combined their strengths a year after WeChat introduced its digital hongbao in order to promote their version of the digital red envelope.

A ‘war’ then broke out between the two companies. AliPay handed out 600 million renminbi ($93 million) worth of red envelopes as a response to WeChat’s 120 million envelopes sent out during the televised celebration of Chinese New Year.2

 

“Digital red envelopes can cross time and place, but cannot replace the method of face-to-face contact”

 

In the years after, the digital red envelope became more and more popular. Weibo and Alipay also came with their version of sending red envelopes online. The companies organized large-scale actions to make users make use of their form of digital red envelopes.

WeChat, for instance, gives users the option to make the red envelopes very personal through adding stickers and personal messages, making the digital red envelope an even more enjoyable experience.

Does this new development of the traditional red envelope make the tangible envelope obsolete?

When asked by the digital newspaper The Paper (澎湃新闻) about whether the digital red envelope might replace its tangible brother, scholar Tian Zhaoyuan (田兆元) of East China Normal University said that the digital red envelope can cross time and place, but cannot replace the method of face-to-face contact. Though friends and family may send one another digital red envelopes, it does not mean that it replaces the tangible red envelopes.3

The tradition of sending red envelopes is and will be inherently linked to Chinese New Year. Though both the paper and digital forms of the tradition remain incredibly popular, the virtual hongbao will definitely win territory once more this year as travel is restricted due to COVID-19. Especially in these times, the digital red envelope is the best digital way of wishing family and friends a happy new year.

Why are ‘lucky envelopes’ not just red, but sometimes also green or purple? Read more via Things That Talk here.

 
By Koen van der Lijn and Xiaojun Zhang

Koen van der Lijn (China Studies, BA) is a ResMa student Asian Studies at Leiden University focused on Chinese history and its international relations. He is a student ambassador at Things That Talk.

Xiaojun Zhang (China Studies, BA) is an MA student Asian Studies at Leiden University focused on contemporary Chinese culture, symbolism and food. For Things That Talk, she currently works on a project about Chinese-Indonesian restaurants in the Netherlands.

This story was made in collaboration with ThingsThatTalk.net – exploring humanities through the life of objects. Things That Talk is an educational digital project where staff and students produce narratives and metadata about objects in Leiden collections and beyond. Check out the story “Hongbao: from paper envelope to digital gift” on Things That Talk here!

 
Footnotes (other sources hyperlinked within the article)

1 Kin Wai Michael Siu. 2001. “Red Packet: a Traditional Object in the Modern World.” Journal of Popular Culture 35 (3), 103.
2 Chen, Liyan. 2015. “Red Envelope War: How Alibaba and Tencent Fight Over Chinese New Year.” Forbes, Feb 19 https://www.forbes.com/sites/liyanchen/2015/02/19/red-envelope-war-how-alibaba-and-tencent-fight-over-chinese-new-year/?sh=1b88bccccddd.
3 The Paper, Zuowei yi zhong “xinnian su”, weixin hongbao hui qudai zhizhi hongbao ma? 作为一种“新年俗”,微信红包会取代纸质红包吗?, https://cul.qq.com/a/20160208/012888.htm.

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Digital

Conversations Behind the Wall: Clubhouse App Now Blocked in China

While the Clubhouse app is no longer accessible from within the PRC, conversations continue behind the wall.

Manya Koetse

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The Clubhouse app became a hot topic among web users in mainland China this weekend. On Monday, the platform was no longer accessible from within the PRC.

On Saturday, we posted an article about the surge in popularity of American ‘drop-in audio chat’ social media platform Clubhouse in mainland China.

As conversations about the popular app continued throughout the weekend, the app was no longer accessible from within mainland China on Monday.

Clubhouse describes itself as “a space for casual, drop-in audio conversations—with friends and other interesting people around the world” where you can “go online anytime to chat with the people you follow, or hop in as a listener and hear what others are talking about.”

The app has virtual rooms and events themed around various topics – anything from politics to music – and lets hundreds of members join conversations as moderators, speakers, or listeners.

The Clubhouse app was developed by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Paul Davison and ex-Google employee Rohan Seth. It was first launched in April 2020 on iOS only, and is still only accessible through iPhone for users who have an invite.

Before Monday, the Clubhouse app was freely accessible from within China for those people who had an invite, but only if they had access to the non-Chinese Apple store to download the app.

The app was a hot topic on various Chinese social media platforms this weekend. On Weibo, the civilized and open character of the Clubhouse conversations were praised, allowing a broader understanding of issues that otherwise remain untouched or are limited within the Chinese social media sphere.

One Chinese-language virtual room about the Xinjiang camps was joined by hundreds of people on Saturday. But besides the room focused on Xinjiang, there were also other rooms where discussions took place about the status of Hong Kong and about issues such as whether or not (overseas) Chinese are willing to return to the mainland and why.

“It is like a small crack in a window,” one person on Weibo said about Clubhouse, while others already predicted the app would become unavailable from within mainland China soon.

When it finally happened on Monday, the responses on Weibo were mainly those of disappointment. “Bye bye Clubhouse,” some Weibo users wrote, with others expressing their surprise: “What?! It was just popular for two days and it’s already blocked? They move so fast it’s scary.”

“I was active on Clubhouse for two days. I didn’t expect it to be shut down so soon already.”

Although many commenters previously expressed that they expected the app to become unavailable within the PRC, the fact that it was shutdown while it was just exploding online comes as a surprise to some, as various commenters write.

The term ‘Clubhouse’ was also temporarily blocked on Weibo by Monday night Beijing time; over the weekend various hashtags relating to the app made their rounds on Chinese social media, but the hashtag pages were no longer online by Monday evening.

‘Clubhouse’ no longer shows results on social media platform Weibo. Screenshot by What’s on Weibo.

Meanwhile, various Chinese-language rooms on Clubhouse discussed the topic of its disappearance in China.

A room titled “Clubhouse is blocked, and now?” was joined by over a hundred people on Monday night. The room “Clubhouse is blocked” attracted over 3000 participants. These conversations are likely to continue for the time to come, but now they must continue behind the Great Firewall of China.

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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