Chinese smartphone brands conquer more of the market in 2014

Samsung and Apple, however, remained the two leading brands

2014 was a good year for Chinese smartphone brands, with vendors from the country catching up on Apple and stealing share from market leader Samsung Electronics.

In total, Chinese brands shipped 453.4 million units last year, for almost 40 percent of all shipments during the year, research firm TrendForce said on Tuesday.

And even as Samsung and Apple remained the two biggest handset vendors in the world, six Chinese brands were among the world's top ten smartphone makers, TrendForce added.

These Chinese vendors included Lenovo, which recently acquired Motorola Mobility, and new entrants into the top ten rankings, Xiaomi and TCL.

To compete, many of these Chinese brands are offering high-performing handsets, but at low prices, according to TrendForce. It's a strategy that Xiaomi has successfully used to transform itself from a little-known firm into a fast-rising smartphone player with global ambitions.

At the same time, the brands also benefited from rising demand coming from mainland China, which has become the world's largest market for handsets..

Both Samsung and Apple, however, continue to make the bulk of the world's smartphones, and together shipped 518 million units last year, TrendForce said in a report.

Samsung, while still the world's leading smartphone vendor, saw its global market share drop by over 4 points to 28 percent in the year, partly due to the rise of its Chinese rivals.

In response, the Korean electronics giant has been launching more mid-range phones in China, a market where both Xiaomi and Lenovo have recently overtaken Samsung.

Apple, on the other hand, saw its market share hold steady last year at 16.4 percent, with the large-screen iPhone 6 Plus helping to maintain the company's robust sales.

Overall, the world's smartphone market grew by 25.9 percent year over year to reach almost 1.17 billion units in 2014. TrendForce, however, projects that growth will slow in 2015, with shipments expected to grow at 10 percent year on year.

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