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.
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.
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.
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.’
#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).
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.
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Online Controversy over Mandatory GPS Tracking Smartwatches for Chinese Street Cleaners
Being a street cleaner in 2019 China now involves wearing a mandatory smartwatch with GPS tracking.
Earlier this month, the introduction of smartwatches tracking the movements of street cleaners in Nanjing attracted the attention of Chinese netizens and international media after the new policy was made public on April 3rd.
In March of this year, the sanitation department in the Hexi area of Nanjing, Jiangsu, started a pilot with a smartwatch that sanitation workers are obliged to wear. The watch has a built-in real-time GPS tracking system, allowing the Nanjing Hexi Smart Sanitation Center to monitor workers’ movements.
In a short video published by Toutiao News, a spokesperson of the Smart Sanitation Command Center* explained that the smartwatch currently allows the company to assess the workers in three ways: they can register workers’ attendance, collect statistics of workers leaving their designated work area, and report on workers that remain in the same position exceeding the allowed amount of time.
Sanitation workers also commented on their new working system. One person interviewed said: “Why wouldn’t I be allowed to have a half-an-hour break? Look, the street is all clean, there is nothing to be cleaned up. They are crazy for making us move up and down the street for no reason.”
Street cleaners also said that the system would automatically report them if they had been in the same spot for more than twenty minutes. The smartwatch would then subsequently encourage them to move, calling out “Jiayou! Jiayou!” (“Come on! Come on!”).
That particular function was reportedly removed shortly after public outcry on the policy.
On Weibo, the hashtag “Smartwatch Automatically Yells ‘Jiayou'” (#智能手表自动喊加油#) received over 2,5 million views, with the majority of commenters strongly rejecting the new approach.
Most commenters on this issue argued that the implementation of the smartwatch is “immoral” and that the Nanjing workers are “treated as criminals.” Many others also pointed out that the workers, often senior citizens, should be able to rest for more than 20 minutes.
In light of the new policy, many people on social media also referred to the infamous fictional character Zhou “Bapi” (周扒皮). In the novel The Killing Wind, this landlord Zhou would stick his head into the henhouse stirring up the roosters to wake his laborers up earlier, so they would start working.
Some netizens came with an alternative solution, suggesting that the leaders of the company should wear the smartwatches themselves instead.
While the controversial function was eliminated, the GPS tracking function still stands.
Nanjing is not the first city to introduce GPS tracking smartwatches for its sanitary workers. Other cities where the same policy has been introduced are, for example, Chengdu, Hangzhou, Guangzhou, and Qingdao, according to Chinese media outlet Global Times.
In the summer of 2018, various Chinese media outlets already reported about the introduction of smartwatches for street cleaners in Guangzhou. At the time, the smartwatch policy was described as an innovative way to solve staff deployment and management problems, giving team leaders more insights into the real-time position of the street cleaners.
Whether or not the smartwatches do indeed improve work efficiency of street cleaners is still unclear, but there are no indications that the smartwatch policy will be changed at this point.
The tough work conditions of Chinese street cleaners, who work long hours and receive minimal pay, regularly become an issue of debate on Chinese social media. Besides praising the hard work of China’s public cleaners, Chinese netizens often express their sympathy for the bad circumstances under which street sweepers have to work.
By Gabi Verberg
* (南京河西建环”智能环卫”综合调度监控指挥中心 Nanjing Hexi Jianhuan “Intelligent Sanitation” Integrated Dispatching Monitoring Command Center)
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Digitalizing China’s Beauty Industry: Introducing Supermakeup’s ‘Beauty Charging Stations’
Are ‘makeup charging stations’ the next trend in China’s beauty industry?
You’re on the road and need a skin, make-up, or hair fix-up before your next appointment, but have no time for a spa session and would rather avoid dirty toilet rooms? These are the kinds of situations that Beijing’s Supermakeup company has claimed to have found the solution for.
With its ‘beauty charging stations’ in public urban spaces, the Supermakeup company is trying to launch a new kind of beauty industry where women can use their self-service ‘spa booths’ and make-up product stores in the middle of a street or shopping mall.
Access to the booths is provided through the Supermarket app or via its WeChat programme, and payment of products and access is done via WeChat Pay.
The Supermakeup Company (北京超级美科技有限公司) was established in March of 2018 and is headquartered in Beijing.
Will this be the big next trend that will further digitalize China’s beauty industry? We tried it out for you, check out our latest video below.
By Manya Koetse
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