smartphones

Apple and Nokia’s latest quarterly results always throw up something interesting – usually in different directions, as the Finnish phonemaker declines and the US tech giant forges on.

So here’s one nugget from the recent reports: in revenue terms year-on-year, Apple added the equivalent of Nokia’s entire China services and devices business in just one quarter. 

Apple’s launch of its iPhone 5S and 5C has generated as much speculation over its business in China as it has interest in the models themselves.

Can Apple pull off a deal with China Mobile, the world’s biggest mobile carrier? Or would a better question be: is it too late? 

Apple’s simultaneous product launch in California and Beijing was the latest sign that the global brand is attempting to push into Asian markets.

But Apple’s foray into China has not so far been an unmitigated success, write Kate Allen and Sarah Mishkin. In fact, the brand seems to be struggling to seize the market. Why so? Here are six key points about the Chinese mobile market that might help to explain. 

While attention has been focused on the demise of new chapter for Nokia as part of Microsoft, another phonemaker is in deep trouble.

Unlike Nokia, Taiwan’s HTC actually makes very good smartphones, and sold a lot of them a few years back. But sales have been dropping steadily since the 2011 heyday, and two bits of news have made the outlook for investors even grimmer. 

Not long ago, the future for Nokia looked merely bleak. In developed markets, Apple and others were outselling the Finnish company with advanced smartphones, leaving Nokia to play catch-up. In emerging markets, Nokia clung on to its market by selling so-called feature phones – simpler, slimmed down smartphones.

Then things got bleaker. With the advent of cheaper handsets running Android, customers in emerging markets began to buy advanced smartphones, too – and not Nokia ones. So, can Microsoft’s €5.4bn purchase of Nokia’s phone business pay off – and how important are emerging markets? 

India has overtaken Japan to become the world’s third largest market for smartphones, joining China and the US on the podium.

In some ways, it’s unsurprising. With a population of over a billion people India is bound eventually to be among the largest markets for pretty much anything. What is interesting is how Indians are using their phones – and the local handset makers that are seeing lightning fast growth. 

Pieces of HTC’s recent management shake-up seem to be falling in place with its announcement on Thursday of new leadership for its south Asia operations.

Most notably, the struggling Taiwanese smartphone maker says its new head of south and southeast Asia has come over from the key competitor HTC has been trying hard to emulate – Apple. 

Samsung Electronics’ new Galaxy S4 smartphone has smashed the company’s sales records – but that hasn’t been enough to prevent a nasty slide of nearly 9 per cent in its shares over the past three trading days.

The immediate trigger for the slide appears to have been a cautionary broker’s note on Friday from analysts at JPMorgan, who said third-quarter sales of the Galaxy S4 would undershoot their previous expectations. 

Taiwanese consumers are a discerning lot when it comes to tech – it is the key industry in this island nation, after all – so it’s a bit surprising that a popular new brand on the market is a Chinese smartphone company, Xiaomi.

Strong sales meant Xiaomi nearly ran out of phones in its first foray in Taiwan, part (along with Hong Kong) of its first big push out of mainland China. But if the popularity of the launch showed the potential of the brand, some operational snags point to the trendy company’s inexperience in foreign markets. 

HTC, the bealguered Taiwanese phonemaker, expects sales to jump over 60 per cent between the first and second quarters. That’s quite an uplift, and certainly better than last quarter, when sales significantly missed expectations, driving down its first quarter profits to record lows.

What’s behind the change? Well, it helps to have a flagship phone to sell. 

Apple may be souring the market with its unimpressive forecasts, but not all the suppliers who rely on the US tech group for orders are suffering.

Shares in Largan Precision, a Taiwanese lens maker, gained 7 per cent on Friday after it reported stronger than anticipated earnings for the last quarter and, against expectations, forecast more growth ahead. Its secret? Growth of other brands has been strong enough to offset Apple. That’s a change from the days when Apple was component companies’ key driver of growth. 

After the apologies, the mea culpas and the admissions of getting it wrong, Apple can claim to be doing something right at last in China – as far as the company’s latest results show.

The tech giant may have lost the confidence of some investors, with shares falling from the giddy heights of just over $700 to around $406 – a reduction in market cap of over $290bn. Commentators have asked questions of the product line, even the position of chief executive Tim Cook.

But Apple in China is doing very nicely, thank you. It’s the only region to register an increase in revenues from the last quarter. 

A quarter of the world’s 161m blind and severely visually impaired people live in India, according to Sightsavers, the international charity.

Combine that with the fact that India is buzzing with technology and entrepreneurship, and it makes sense that the world’s first Braille smartphone is being developed in the country. 

ZTE marked its 15th anniversary in the handset market on Thursday, but the man heading up that section of the business was not in a celebratory mood.

China’s second-largest telecom equipment maker should consider spinning off its devices arm lest it become a casualty of the state-controlled group’s staid ways and financial struggles, according to He Shiyou, head of the company’s handset unit (pictured). 

Taiwan smartphone maker HTC has, again, reported a sharp drop in monthly sales.

The year on year fall of 44 per cent in its February sales is unsurprising — executives last month warned revenues would slip this quarter — but the trouble at HTC is also part of a broader upheaval in the mobile market as even market leader Apple and its rivals now grapple with how to deal with what consumers want, and how much they’re willing to pay.