If you follow tech news you may have heard of Foxconn, if you haven’t then you have certainly heard of some of the products it manufactures: iPad, iPhone, Kindle, PlayStation, Xbox and so on! The keyword here is manufacture. Foxconn is a Taiwanese contract manufacturer that assembles products for the likes of Apple, Blackberry and Microsoft. Nokia also recently revealed that it will be releasing a new tablet. But it won’t be made by Nokia, instead the industrial design, the brand, and the IP will be licensed to Foxconn on a royalty basis.
Some estimates reckon that Foxconn, or Hon Hai Precision Industry as it is officially known, employs over 1,000,000 people. In other words the company is big, profitable and a global player. What isn’t so well known, especially in the west, is that Foxconn has its own smartphone brand. Next to all those iPhones that are rolling off the assembly lines, there are Android smartphones sold under Foxconn’s own brand – InFocus.
Before you think it, let me stop you, these aren’t iPhone clones or anything like that. What Foxconn is doing is using its vast manufacturing skill to make its own brand of smartphone and sell it as cheap as it can, primarily to the Asian market. At last count Foxconn produces at least 10 InFocus devices. The cheapest costs just $110, while the top of the range devices, like the InFocus M810 (a 5.5 inch, 4G smartphone) cost around $350.
The origin of the InFocus brand is a bit unclear. There is an American company called InFocus which sells projectors and a range of other video related products. According to various SEC filings for InFocus, the company has long procured its projectors from Foxconn. There is a “Global Website” link from the infocusphone.com website back to infocus.com. This implies that InFocus (the American projector maker) is behind the InFocus brand in Asia. However, in a recent interview with Nikkei Electronics, Foxconn Chairman and CEO Terry Gou stated that, “We make our own smartphones under the InFocus brand by engaging in all stages, from planning to sales.” My guess is that InFocus has a relationship with Foxconn similar to the one that Nokia is planning.
I tried reaching out to Infocus in Portland on three separate occasions,
but no one from the company ever got back to me. and during my discussions with the company’s Public Relations Manager, I was unable to clarify the exact nature of the relationship between InFocus and Foxconn. However InFocus did confirm that the two organizations “have a very close relationship.”
Whatever the licence agreement is, one thing is sure, Foxconn has its own smartphone brand and it is bringing its mighty force to bear on the smartphone market. In days gone by, the smartphone market was dominated by the big brands, Samsung, HTC, Sony, LG and so on. But that is changing. Sony has struggled to meet its sales targets, citing strong competition from China. Samsung is thought to have sold 40% fewer Galaxy S5 units than it had anticipated. One of the reasons is that in China, Samsung saw a 50% decrease in sales in the first six months after release, between the S4 and S5.
It is rumored that InFocus is set to release an Android tablet based around the octa-core Allwinner A83T.
While some of the big names are struggling, there are various Chinese OEMs which are starting to make their presence felt. ZTE, Xiaomi and OnePlus are probably three of the better known Chinese smartphone makers, but there are others like THL, Oppo, Zopo, and Elephone. Now we can add InFocus to that list.
Earlier this year InFocus was chosen by Mozilla to provide the first reference design for a Firefox OS tablet. The Foxconn InFocus New Tab F1 is a 10.1 inch device with a quad-core Cortex-A7 processor and 2GB of RAM. Although not a money making project, this is quite a scoop for InFocus as it proves the company’s dedication to open source software and its support for a diverse range of mobile operating systems.
But Foxconn’s tablet aspirations don’t stop there. It is rumored that InFocus is set to release an Android tablet based around the octa-core Allwinner A83T. The new processor from Allwinner uses eight Cortex-A7 processors and includes a PowerVR SGX544 GPU. The SGX544 can also be found in the Allwinner A31, as well as the Intel Atom ‘Clover Trail+’ Z2580/Z2560/Z2520, the MediaTek MT6589 and the Samsung Exynos 5410 Octa.
At the moment it seems that Foxconn is happy to concentrate on the Asian market, but like ZTE, Xiaomi and OnePlus it will eventually turn its attention to the rest of the world. And when it does you can be sure it will be a disruptive force in the already turbulent smartphone market.