There Are Only Three Smartphone Makers That Matter Right Now

Counterpoint Technology Research Firm has a list of the top-selling smartphones in 35 countries in May:

Do you notice anything strange?

As you’d expect, Apple and Samsung dominate the list. Lumped together, Samsung is still selling more smartphones than anyone else. No surprises there.

But a smaller player is creeping up the charts: Xiaomi.

Xiaomi is a Chinese startup that makes high-quality smartphones, but sells them for dirt cheap. These phones typically have specs and features on par with the best Apple, Samsung, and other premium smartphone makers have to offer but cost half as much. And since Xiaomi’s phones are so cheap, they sell like hotcakes.

Last quarter, for example, Xiaomi sold 15 million smartphones.

What’s even more impressive about this chart is Xiaomi only sells phones in a handful of countries. Its biggest market is still China, but it plans to expand to other countries like Brazil, India, and Indonesia this year. Samsung and Apple sell their phones in at least 100 countries.

Xiaomi represents a growing trend that threatens top dogs like Samsung. In emerging markets, consumers can buy phones that still run Android and do just about everything Samsung phones can do for a fraction of the price. Samsung blamed such cheap smartphone makers for its weak earnings report last week.

And that’s what makes Xiaomi one of the most important smartphone makers at the moment, right up there with Apple and Samsung. It’s scooping up the untapped market of folks who want to buy a powerful smartphone for next to nothing.

Xiaomi isn’t alone either. Expect to see companies like OnePlus and Lenovo creep onto this list. They also make great phones that don’t cost very much.

Samsung and Apple have the high end of the market locked up. But since they’re unwilling or unable to sell their best phones at thin margins like Xiaomi is, they’re going to lose share in emerging markets.

(Thanks to The Loop for pointing out Counterpoint’s smartphone list.)

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