When Gree, China’s air conditioner king, first unveiled his ambitions to get into smartphone manufacturing in 2015, its chairwoman Dong Mingzhu, one of the country’s most influential businesswomen, hinted that his group would “easily” surp the rising star Xiaomi. And at the group’s general meeting a year ago, she didn’t hesitate to say that Gree smartphones were at least as good as Apple’s iPhones.
A year later, the company based in Zhuhai, not far from Shenzhen in southern China, is keeping a low profile: the website dedicated to smartphones is no longer accessible, the global site only lists two models for sale, the WeChat public account is no longer up to date and the group is in the process of disbanding its smartphone unit, reports the “South China Morning Post”.
Lowest level in ten years
If Gree has never managed to break into mobile for seven years, the electronics giant’s difficulties arise in a complicated context in the Chinese smartphone market. In the first quarter, shipments fell 11% in China to their lowest level in ten years, according to research firm Canalys. Only 67.6 million units were shipped in three months, the lowest number since the first quarter of 2013. According to data from Counterpoint, smartphone sales in China fell 5% in the first quarter to reach their highest low level since 2014.
The Chinese mobile market is not immune to the ambient gloom, against a backdrop of great consumer caution. The end of the relentless “zero Covid” policy has certainly given a boost to the economy, in particular with a return of customers to restaurants and transport, but it has not been enough to give a boost. to the demand for communications products, in a context of pressure on revenues. More than one in five young Chinese city dwellers are unemployed, according to official statistics, and many are reluctant to make major purchases.
More chips for Oppo
In this not very bright climate, some builders are doing better than others. Apple, which lowered prices for its iPhone 14 in February to boost sales, was the top smartphone vendor in China in the first quarter with 20% of the market, according to Canalys. Oppo closely follows Apple with 19% of the market, followed by Vivo, Honor and Xiaomi. The latter two manufacturers experienced the largest sales declines for the quarter, -35% and -20% year-on-year respectively.
Published at the end of May, Xiaomi’s financial results disappointed analysts, with a 19% drop in quarterly sales. Hoping to stimulate demand, Xiaomi has reduced the prices of several of its models. The Beijing-based company, on the other hand, has ured that it wants to continue investing in its own chip design unit a few days after the surprise announcement from Oppo, which announced the closure of this activity, citing the uncertainties of the global economy and smartphone industry. Oppo is ceasing the activities of its Zeku unit, created in 2019, but has denied rumors of a departure from Europe where the manufacturer has been seeking a place for itself for a few years.