The smartphone we called 'deeply flawed' is now the world's biggest selling device behind the iPhone 7

Oppo R9s smartphone. (Source: supplied)

A Chinese brand not yet well known in Western markets has produced the highest selling Android smartphone in the world, sitting only behind the Apple iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus in the latest rankings.

The Oppo R9s took out the number 3 spot on the global smartphone charts compiled by research firm Strategy Analytics, shipping 8.9 million units for the quarter ending March 31. That represented 2.5% of all mobile phones sold in the world in that period.

“Oppo is largely unknown in the Western world, but its brand is wildly popular in China and growing rapidly across India,” said Strategy Analytics executive director Neil Mawston.

“The R9s is Oppo’s flagship 4G device with key features such as dual-SIM connectivity and fingerprint security.”

The Apple iPhone 7 took top place with 21.5 million devices shipped, and its larger sibling iPhone 7 Plus wasn’t far behind with 17.4 million units.

The R9s, which is priced at $599 in Australia, competes against other flagship models such as the iPhone 7, Samsung Galaxy S7 and LG G6 that all exceed the $1000 mark.

Business Insider last month found critical flaws in the Oppo R9s software and camera made the phone a difficult value proposition even at the competitive price. The handset is, however, physically attractive after modelling itself on the iPhone – a feature that may be alluring for aspirational consumers in the Chinese market, where Apple has luxury brand cachet.

While the launch of Samsung’s new Galaxy S8 range came after the surveyed period, its mid-range model Galaxy J3 and Galaxy J5 came in 4th and 5th to represent the company.

“Samsung’s J3 and J5 are midrange devices that sell very well across Europe and Asia and they helped to offset Samsung’s troubles with the Note 7 battery fiasco in the quarter,” Mawston said.

Overall, the global market for smartphones grew 6.1% year-on-year, after suffering a 3.4% drop this time last year. The top five models represented one out of every six phones shipped in the quarter.

Oppo Australia executive director Michael Tran said that the R9s isn’t sold in as many countries as the other phones in the top five, so the 3rd placing was a notable achievement.

“What we’re seeing is consumers increasingly purchasing low- to mid-tier phones outright on prepaid or SIM-only plans,” he said.

“Those that do want to go down the contract route are also looking at alternative mobile devices, which have lower or zero handset repayment costs and offer greater value.”

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