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Chinese smartphone makers are pushing into the US despite Huawei's struggles

  • Chinese smartphone makers are continuing to try and crack the U.S. despite the recent issues faced by Huawei and anti-China sentiment in one of the world's most lucrative markets.
  • Huawei was planning to enter the U.S. through a partnership with AT&T which eventually fell through and intelligence officials warned users against buying devices made by the company.
  • Executives at OnePlus and Xiaomi told CNBC they are not deterred by what happened with Xiaomi and will continue to push into the U.S.

Chinese smartphone makers are continuing to try and crack the U.S. despite the recent issues faced by Huawei and anti-China sentiment in one of the world's most lucrative markets.

Huawei, the third-largest smartphone player by market share, was planning to enter the U.S. through a partnership with AT&T that eventually fell through. And U.S. intelligence officials urged people not to buy phones from Huawei for fear they were being used to spy on Americans.

Speaking to CNBC, executives at two of Huawei's rivals said they remained undeterred.

Xiaomi, which had its best year ever in terms of revenue in 2017, does not operate in the U.S. But Wang Xiang, the head of its international business, told CNBC earlier this week that it is building "resources" to launch there.

He shrugged off the negative news about Huawei in the States and said he expected Xiaomi to be able to launch there when the time is right.

"We are an internet company, we are very open. Very friendly to consumers, to the people in different countries," Wang told CNBC.

"We also have lot of fans in U.S. They keep asking me when do you come to U.S.? I always tell them, we'll be there. Also we are very confident... they will love us."

OnePlus is another Chinese smartphone maker, but unlike its rivals, it already has a big presence in the U.S. The company, which has built a following through social media and selling its phones direct to consumers, told CNBC that it saw 139 percent growth last year, with the U.S. making up 25 percent of its e-commerce sales.

But OnePlus does not yet sell its phones via a carrier. Striking a deal with a mobile network can help new smartphone players grow because they get an extra marketing push, and their devices can be sold as part of a mobile phone contract.

Pete Lau, CEO of OnePlus, told CNBC earlier this week at Mobile World Congress, in Barcelona, Spain, that the company is talking to carriers in the U.S., and doesn't expect the Huawei and AT&T deal collapse to affect its chances.

"In North America, our user base and sales have grown steadily, and strongly over four years. We've been in North America since the start and along with that our reputation in North America is strong among the community," Lau said.

"They are our... reputation on the ground and an important point that carriers would look at to sell. So we think the reputation among our users will be helpful going forward and we don't expect to have any problems."

Chinese smartphone makers have been expanding rapidly across Asia. For example, in the fourth quarter in India, four out of the top five smartphone makers by market share were Chinese, according to data from Counterpoint Research.

Chinese manufacturers like Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo have found success by selling high-end devices at low price points. This is appealing in markets like India where the majority of the population is buying cheaper devices.

In many of the emerging markets, Chinese firms are selling direct to consumers via physical stores and online. But in many developed markets, consumers buy phones via mobile networks on a fixed-term contract. And because of this, it could be hard for Chinese players to penetrate without a carrier partner.

The U.S. remains an attractive market because users are willing to pay higher prices for devices. This is seen as an opportunity for the Chinese companies. But they would face stiff competition from Apple and Samsung, which make up the majority of market share in the States.