By David Williams, AFP
BARCELONA — Chinese handset makers will lead an onslaught on smartphone titans Samsung and Apple when the world’s biggest mobile fair opens Monday in Barcelona. Offering big-screen, slick, slim smartphones at lower prices, Chinese manufacturers Huawei, ZTE and Lenovo will leverage the Mobile World Congress to chip away at the mighty duopoly, analysts say.
The handset battle is part of a broader revolt against a handful of companies with a stranglehold on the booming industry’s handsets, operating systems and microchips, they say. Apple, as usual, is steering clear of the Feb. 25-28 congress that draws 1,500 exhibitors to this Mediterranean city in northeastern Spain, and Samsung is not expected to launch its next big offer, the Galaxy S4, until some time after the show.
That may leave the field clear for rivals to tout their ambitions for a slice of the smartphone market, which is set to grow to a record one billion handset shipments in 2013 according to a forecast by global consultancy Deloitte. “I think we will see challengers trying to make noise at the Mobile World Congress this year,” said Ian Fogg, London-based senior mobile analyst at research house IHS. New players face a daunting task, though. Samsung and Apple accounted for more than half of all smartphone sales in the final quarter of 2012 — 29 percent for Samsung and 22.1 percent for Apple — according to research firm Strategy Analytics. Behind Samsung and Apple, however, Chinese firms held the third, fourth and fifth spots — with 5.3 percent for Huawei, 4.7 percent for ZTE and 4.4 percent for Lenovo. Demand for smartphones in developing countries could give Chinese firms a bigger opening, said Magnus Rehle, senior partner at telecommunications management consultancy group Greenwich Consulting.