By 2017, more than two billion phones will be sold every 365 days. A vast majority of those will be smartphones. With this in mind, we have the world’s biggest technology companies engaging in technological, marketing, and patent warfare. But which manufacturer deserves our acclaim, our respect, and the hard earned dollars of consumers worldwide?
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at key differentiators that characterize the biggest players in the business of mobile technology.
Sony is a world class manufacturer. Long considered the undisputed king of consumer electronics, their fall from grace has gone unnoticed by consumers. Historically, they’ve produced the finest displays in the world, and remain steadfast in their commitment to their optical image sensor business where they remain as the undisputed leader. Despite losing money for several quarters, their recent foray into flagship smartphones like the Xperia Z and most recently the Xperia Z Ultra has led to a resurgence of interest in the mobile wares of the once great giant from Japan.
- Beautiful industrial design in their Xperia line for smartphones and tablets
- Flagship devices typically include IP-57 certification for water resistance and dust proof operation at up to 1 meter for 30mins.
- Usually include microSD expansion in their devices
- Have been very good to Android in that they have supported AOSP, released binaries, and have supported the development community
- Historically have not released cutting edge technology in their smartphones and have been two quarters behind
- Very little presence and adoption in the U.S.
- Sometimes, they don’t ‘get’ what consumers want
Motorola and Verizon spent hundreds of millions of dollars jumpstarting the Droid Does campaign, which many consider to be the beginning of people’s growing curiosity and awareness towards Android as a viable mobile computing platform.
The Motorola you thought you knew is no more, and has since been replaced by “Moto.” Google now runs the show, despite calling Motorola an independent business within Google. It’s likely Google will eventually embed their very latest products, services and technology into Motorola devices as it seeks to differentiate and insulate itself from the growing influence of Samsung and other ambitious Android manufacturers.
- Substantial experience making mobile devices, in particular their radio/baseband expertise is second only to Qualcomm.
- Will receive preferential access to Google’s technology in an incremental fashion
- Willing to push forward in new directions, ie. Clear Pixel image sensor, X8 computing, always on computing, etc
- Google’s leading market position, strengths and synergies will invariably transfer over to Motorola
- Very weak international presence
- Latest offerings don’t appeal to spec savvy consumer
- Haven’t released a successful device for over two years
HTC is a fan favorite for many reasons. Of all the companies listed here, they are the only manufacturer that exclusively makes smartphones. Where once they were a leader in terms of market share and profitability, their fall from grace has been characterized by delayed releases, shortages, and the market has reacted in kind; which is to say their stock has been pummelled to record lows. Things are looking up for the Taiwanese company that could, and public sentiment towards them and their product portfolio (HTC One, One Max) has reached record levels. Their decision to opt for a truly premium feeling smartphone resulted in an explosion of demand for the HTC One, and their rumored One Max has a strong following, too.
- Can operate on razor thin margins
- Willing to push the envelope and differentiate itself in ways that consumers truly appreciate (BoomSound, build quality, materials)
- Close proximity to the world’s fastest growing smartphone markets: China & India
- The brand is loved and revered globally in evangelist segments
- PR is a hot mess
- Can’t compete pound for pound with industry titan Samsung
- Just beginning to realize the power of marketing
- No in house production; everything outsourced in terms of manufacturing to China and other partners
- No longer considered a tier one buyer of technology, therefore will have increasingly slower access to the world’s most advanced consumer mobile tech
- Seemingly able to push out new mobile devices at all price segments faster than any other manufacturer in the world
- Largest technology company in the world with over 370,000 employees
- Has almost complete monopoly on AMOLED production with over 97% of the market cornered, and at least 3/4 quarters ahead of any competitor
- Vertically interdependent business model – they make RAM, processors, displays, plastics and much more, and as such, have a significant advantage in terms of profitability because they can produce vital components at cost.
- Willing and able to spend billions on advertising to promote their Galaxy brand which many consumers identify as Android
- Deep and established global distribution channels
- Near spartan work ethic; continuously iterating and trying new things, fears complacency
- Their love of plastic
- Samsung branded tablets are despised by savvy consumers
- Their size has led them to become a fragmented business, no one specific focus or direction
Check out our reviews of the latest Samsung devices – yep, there’s a lot of them:
- Samsung Galaxy Ace 3 review
- Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom review (video)
- Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3 Review
- Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 review (video)
- Samsung Galaxy Mega 5.8 review (video)
- Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini Review (video)
- Samsung Galaxy Fame Review
- Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 review
- Samsung Galaxy S4 review
LG has been an interesting company to watch over the past several quarters, and I remain steadfast in my commitment to them. Pound for pound, they are producing better quality devices at nearly every price point, at least relative to incumbent heavy weight Samsung. Their aspirations are justified; there are billions of dollars and millions of potentially loyal customers at stake. Observe the LG G2: technologically speaking, it is more advanced than the Galaxy S4, and even though it won’t sell as well as the Galaxy S4 or Note 3, it’s still a device that epitomizes LG’s desire to produce world class flagships, and will be the second device to hit major markets with a Snapdragon 800 Qualcomm SoC, the fastest mobile GPU/processor combination in the world.
- Advanced LCD display technology experience, deep investment in manufacturing world class displays and billions in R&D
- Similar to Samsung in that they have the capability to produce many components vital to creating smartphones
- Hunger typified by better value at every price segment relative to big brother competitor Samsung
- Have their ear to the ground; willing to push the envelope with new technology like 24bit sound, GRAM, and more
- Substantially smaller than Samsung; less reach, less marketing dollars, less mindshare
- Not as many brand evangelists as Samsung or HTC
- International marketing needs work
Lenovo is, to employ a common vernacular, killing it. They surpassed HP to become the number one seller of PC’s very recently, and their value oriented approach towards PC manufacturing has been emulated by their mobile division which has resulted in significant and appreciable market presence in the hotbed of Asia and India. If you’re on the streets in the Philippines, Thailand, China and you look around, you’ll see a lot of Lenovo devices, and it’s easy to understand why. They pack a lot of thoughtfulness into their mobile devices by offering great value at each pricing segment.
- Very good at understanding the sweet spot for consumers in terms of pricing, value, and technology
- Already the world’s largest manufacturer of PC’s
- Strong presence in rapidly growing economies of South East Asia, China and India
- Great balance of quality manufacturing, advanced technology, durability and aggressive price points makes them a fan favorite
- Not associated with being a premium brand for smartphones
- Tablet offerings are weak
- Insignificant presence in EU and North America
OppoOppo is not to be underestimated. Once a purveyor of high quality BluRay players, Oppo smashed onto the smartphone scene with their much praised Oppo Find 5. Arriving on the market at $499 toting a 1080p display, 13MP camera, and more, Oppo continues to turn quite a few heads in the industry for its excellent sourcing of best-in-class components, adherence to high build quality, and aggressive pricing strategy.
- Ambitious, lean and selective in their approach
- Headquartered in the world’s fastest growing smartphone market, China
- Experience in sourcing high quality components; not willing to cut corners to save a few bucks
- Very new player to the smartphone scene
- Little in the way of marketing budget or financial resources
- Virtually no U.S. presence, little known outside of China
The Oppo Find 5 is still one of our favorite devices. Check out our review of the Oppo Find 5, here.
Huawei, like ZTE is, a young company. The largest network equipment manufacturer in the world, they’ve recently been demonized in the media for being an alleged national security risk by the US lawmakers. Consumers could care less. These bold and seemingly economic protectionist statements are based on the fact that Founder Ren Zhengfei previously served in the People’s Liberation Army of China.
While most of their offerings have typically been value oriented, Huawei has publicly stated that they aim to be a ‘top three player within five years’. In order to do this, they have realized they need to bolster public sentiment towards the relatively unknown brand, and by investing in design, too. Perhaps this is not enough, but this remains to be seen.
The others – Pantech, Kyocera, Xiaomi, Meizu, ZTE, et al.
Pantech is relatively unknown outside of Korea, but still produces world leading technology. Through their Vega line, they have consistently beaten LG and Samsung to market with more advanced techologies like LTE-Advanced, and fingerprint reading, as exemplified in their latest device – the Pantech Vega.
Kyocera has substantial experience with advanced material process engineering, and mature distribution channels in the US, particularly towards the lower end of the pricing spectrum. If they can further refine their marketing, take advantage of quality hardware at rock bottom prices and leverage their distribution channels, then they will be really successful.
Xiaomi obliterated Apple’s market share in a mere few weeks in China by offering a device with awesome specs at an extremely aggressive $130 price point. This resulted in over 100,000 sales in 90 seconds. As Apple becomes increasingly uncool in places like China, look to companies like Xiaomi to appeal to cost conscious consumers with much better value propositions.
ZTE is another interesting company. Technically, they rank fifth place in terms of sheer sales of smartphones. How, you may ask? By diversifying their product portfolio and by being an OEM for carriers. Most of their business is generated outside of China, and that’s simply because they are willing to produce branded devices for various carriers, and also because they have offerings at the less expensive end of the spectrum.
Collective Conscience Says
So, which Android manufacturer deserves your dollars? Which one deserves to be the market leader?
If you could offer advice for any one of the manufacturers discussed above, what would it be? Let us know your thoughts below, we always love to hear what you think. Without you, there is no Android Authority.