China's top mobile manufacturers are expected to accelerate their race to launch 5G smartphones in 2019, but those who get new products out first will not necessarily prevail in the market in the end, according to analysts.
Huawei is scheduled to unveil its first foldable 5G smartphone during the Mobile World Congress in February in Barcelona, Spain, Richard Yu Chengdong, head of the Huawei consumer business group, said on Thursday. On the same day, Vivo also released its first 5G mobile phone - Apex 2019 - aiming to improve heat dissipation, performance and the internal structural design of its smartphones.
Oppo told the Global Times on Sunday that the company will release 5G phones abroad in the first half of 2019.
The race is expected to accelerate in the second half of 2019 after 5G phones production revs up in June or July, said Fu Liang, an independent Beijing-based analyst.
Top Chinese brands that have dominated the market and performed well in the world are now examining the growth potential of 5G as phone sales growth saw difficulties in 2018.
According to Beijing-based market research firm Sino Market Research, sales of Oppo's mobile phones reached 76.37 million, surpassing domestic brand Huawei and its sub-brand Honor as well as Apple and Samsung. Sino Market said sales of Huawei rose 29 percent in 2018. Honor sales were up 13 percent, Xiaomi's Mi brand rose 7 percent and Vivo was up 3 percent.
The top four domestic smartphone brands accounted for over 77.6 percent of market share in 2018. Apple ranked fifth with only 8.4 percent, market research firm Strategy Analytics said.
However, the brands that launch new products first are not necessarily going to win the market in the end, because the 5G phone market will not be mature until at least the second half of 2020, said Xiang Ligang, chief executive of telecom industry news site cctime.com.
Although Ren suggested Huawei's achievements in 5G had been somehow exaggerated, speaking in a rare interview with Chinese media on January 17, Xiang remained fairly optimistic about the company's 5G phones. In 2019, top domestic brands are expected to gear up to get ahead in the 5G phone race, but among all Chinese brands only Huawei is using chips that are developed by itself, rather than depending on Qualcomm, Xiang said.