Android

A new crop of Android smartphones is on the rise

Jack Wallen examines the rise of a line of Android devices that the US market may have no idea even exists -- a line that could easily take over (if given the chance).

Android smartphones

When you think of Android smartphones, a select few companies come to mind: HTC, Samsung, LG, Motorola. That's about it, right? If you live in a bubble, yes. If, however, you reach beyond that shell, you will discover a new crop of Android-powered smartphones readily available in other parts of the world. This includes the following:

Let me introduce you to each of these.

OnePlus

The OnePlus One is one of the single most powerful smartphones on the market. With a 2.5 GHz Snapdragon 801 processor, 3 GB of RAM, a 5.5-inch 1080p display, and plenty of specs that should have the major Android manufacturers shaking in their boots, the OnePlus One is one of the first Cyanogen-powered devices on the market. Because it's driven by Cyanogen, it can be highly customized. So, you have incredible power and serious customization packed together in a single device. No wonder the OnePlus One is one of the most sought-after Android devices on the planet! What's even more amazing is the price -- $299 for the 16 GB model or $349 for the 64 GB version. That's half the price of most other flagship models on the US market.

Figure A

Figure A
 Image credit: OnePlus

The OnePlus One.

OPPO

OPPO's new N1 offers one of the more unique takes on the smartphone camera. The camera sits on top of the camera and can be rotated 206 degrees . Watch the video:

The N1's design is a truly stunning all-aluminum work of art. And if that 206-degree rotating camera weren't enough, what about the 12 cm rear touch panel that allows you to control your device from the back side? That's innovation.

Xiaomi

Xiaomi may not be crafting works of art or building the most powerful devices on the planet, but they are selling quality smartphones at insanely low prices. Their new Redmi Note specs 2 GB of RAM on a 1.7 GHz processor for $179.00 ( Figure B). Or you can step it down to 1 GB of RAM and a 1.4 GHz processor for $129.00. That's cheap (and also the reason the company has two phones on the top 10 global sales list). What's more surprising is that, in 2013, Xiaomi overtook Apple's sixth place spot in the Chinese smartphone market (Samsung resides on top).

Figure B

Figure B
 Image credit: Xiaomi

Xiaomi Redmi Note.

Any one of these manufacturers could easily hand the world the single greatest Android device. Does that mean said device could become not only the most popular smartphone but a household name? That's hard to say. Breaking into the US market isn't easy for such manufacturers. However, the US isn't the only market. When you look at the global smartphone market, there are only three manufacturers in the top 10 highest selling devices list:

  • Apple
  • Samsung
  • Xiaomi

As OnePlus, OPPO, and Xiaomi continue to produce quality and inexpensive devices, that top 10 list is going to change. Companies like Apple and Samsung do not have nearly the flexibility or incentive to innovate as these Chinese companies. Innovation could easily make or break OnePlus, OPPO, and Xiaomi. From the looks of it, two companies are nailing it from a technical perspective and the other from the price point. I'm not willing to make a prediction, but I would certainly be willing to bet all three of these companies will make major ripples in the smartphone waters over the next year.

What do you think? Can a relative unknown company (to the US) make any noise in a market currently controlled by a small group of manufacturers? Can a device that outshines all other flagship devices find its niche in the US -- or will these companies never break the barrier to US entry? Share your thoughts in the discussion thread below.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

5 comments
asaturley
asaturley

You don't mention the price of the OPPO phone so I'm curious as to how they are positioning their product. They are the only one of these 3 companies that I know is currently doing business in the US as they are generally considered to make some of the best Blu-ray players available, from both a build quality and performance perspective. In that space, at least, what they are not known for is being cheap. Their least expensive player costs $500 with a $600 step-up model and their audiophile grade player runs $1200 with a step-up model at $1300. Is that their approach to phones?

adornoe
adornoe

Here's the deal...


What we're seeing is "just": faster processors; bigger screens; more memory; lower prices for high tech; and options for stepping up or down on the specs.


So, what the heck is new?  We've been getting that for a few years now.  I don't see any major new innovation on any of those devices.  What?  A camera that rotates?  That's the major innovation?  Heck, Nokia has a smartphone with a 41 megapixels camera in it, and yet, we're to believe that, the smartphones mentioned above offer something that's new? 


Right now, and for perhaps the next few years, what we're going to get, is smartphone makers leapfrogging each other with the "newest and bestest and fastest" thingamajig to impress would-be buyers, but, the buyers are getting smart and not going for so much tech that they really don't have a use for. 

inet32
inet32

All three companies are Chinese.   That's the buried lede in this story.  Lots of American engineers and developers are sitting fat, dumb, and happy thinking that China is just a good, cheap place to outsource manufacturing to while we get to keep all the good design jobs.    What we're all about to discover is that China can innovate, design and build brands too:  Career advice: learn Mandarin; it will help you to understand your next boss.


Jow Below
Jow Below

It's like having the NSA right in your pocket.  Android belongs to Google.  Google belongs to the NSA/CIA.  Don't complain about lack of privacy.  You're giving them a direct line into your life.  Enjoy! :-)

Sverix
Sverix

I've noticed these companies. Even considered onvesting in one, but found that it was privately held.

I'm missing an essential info in your article for all three:

Do they come with:

- full access to Google Play?

- full set of Google Services / possibility to set up these as default services?

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