Chinese vendors continue to put pressure on established smartphone manufacturers
Mobile World Congress 2016 will bring in a flurry of new phone announcements to kick off the year. Roberta Cozza, research director at Gartner, will be attending this year’s event, and she shared her views on the new developments in the smartphone market and the rise of lower-priced Chinese vendors.
In 2016, what advanced features in smartphones are you expecting vendors to release?
The smartphone is becoming an integral part of a bigger continuum of devices and smart objects as users increasingly live their lives in a "device mesh" environment, where they own multiple devices and use a combination of them that better fits the situation they are in. In 2016, we expect vendors to offer more, and new, bundles of sensors and enhanced connectivity standards to support the role of the smartphone as the central hub for Internet of Things scenarios such as the connected home and smart workspaces.
We should also observe the evolution of biometric technologies, which enable authentication as well as more personalised device experiences. New biometric technologies will go beyond fingerprint and increasingly include voice, facial recognition and other modes to enable authentication. In the future, this will expand to solutions, which by gathering and assessing sensor and biometrics data (such as facial expression or voice intonations), will detect human emotion, and, on that basis, trigger a specific response or advice to give to the user.
I expect immersive experiences such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) capabilities to be another key theme in 2016. For example, Samsung Gear VR already uses a smartphone as a portal for VR experiences, and we expect continued development of this more mainstream approach together with the consumption of 360-degree videos.
Could the focus on midrange and budget smartphones be the answer for some vendors to grow market share in 2016? If so, who are they?
During the next five years we expect growth in the smartphone market to come mostly from emerging markets. Basic and lower-end smartphones will account for two-thirds of smartphone sales by 2019; in the same year, only 20 per cent of smartphone sales will come from mature markets.
This shows that there is still an opportunity for mobile manufacturers to penetrate the lower- tier segments in some geographies, such as emerging Asia/Pacific and EMEA, as users continue to shift from feature phones to smartphones. We have witnessed Indian and Chinese players within these regions — such as, Micromax, Xiaomi, Huawei, Intex, Oppo and BBK Electronics — benefit from increased demand for affordable smartphones.
However, affordability and specifications are not everything. Increasingly, channel strategy and knowledge of local consumer market dynamics will help create more competitive smartphone offerings, because the Android market has become highly commoditised. Furthermore, partnerships with local developers and content providers will also be increasingly important in differentiating offerings.
Are you expecting the Chinese mobile manufacturers to increase their share amongst the top mobile phone vendor rankings in 2016? Are you expecting any consolidation during the next two years?
We expect Chinese smartphone players will continue to gain share throughout 2016. They are well positioned to capitalise on demand for midrange to lower-end smartphones in emerging markets as they aggressively expand outside China. Their cost advantage allows them to push affordable, but more sophisticated midtier offerings, while increasing their brand awareness. However, in the midterm Chinese vendors will be under pressure to improve profitability, and the possibility of some level of consolidation amongst Chinese vendors cannot be excluded.
To improve margins, Chinese vendors need to break through the premium smartphone segments to address replacement buyers who have bought iPhones and other high-end Android smartphones in the past, in both developing and mature markets. Some Chinese vendors actively promoted more premium offerings outside China in 2015, but if they want to crack the high-end smartphone market they need to improve their brand value and user loyalty, and demonstrate a clear and differentiated device experience that goes beyond just price and features.
Additional insight into the smartphone market is available in the Gartner press release, Gartner Says Worldwide Smartphone Sales Grew 9.7 Percent in Fourth Quarter of 2015.
Lion Electric to Construct US EV Manufacturing Facility
Who is Lion Electric?
Founded in 2008, is an innovative manufacturer of all-electric, zero-emissions, medium and heavy-duty urban vehicles. Lion Electric designs, manufactures, and assembles all components for its vehicles that have unique features specifically adapted to the users and their needs. “We believe that transitioning to all-electric vehicles will lead to major improvements in our society, environment and overall quality of life,” believes Lion Electric.
Lion Electric’s new Illinois Manufacturing Facility
Just two months after announcing plans to construct a battery manufacturing plant and innovation centre in Quebec, Lion Electric is expanding its locations further, selecting Joliet, Illinois for its new manufacturing facility in the US.
The new facility is said to “represent the largest dedicated production site for zero-emission medium and heavy-duty vehicles in the US,” as well as being the company’s biggest footprint in the market. The new facility will give Lion Electric the capacity to meet increasing demand for ‘Made in America’ zero-emission vehicles and bring production closer to customers.
It is expected that the first vehicles off the production line will be in the second half of 2022.
“Lion’s historic investment to bring its largest production facility to Illinois represents not only a win for our communities, but a strong step forward in our work to expand clean energy alternatives and the jobs they bring to our communities,” said Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
“The new Joliet facility will put Illinois at the forefront of a national movement to transition to zero-emission vehicle use, advancing our own goals of putting one million of these cars on the road by 2030. In Illinois, we know that a clean energy economy is about more than just vehicles – it’s about healthier communities and jobs for those who live there. We are excited to welcome Lion to the Land of Lincoln and look forward to their future success here.”
Lion Electric’s Agreement with the Government of Illinois
Over the next three years, Lion Electric will invest a minimum of US$70mn into Illinois. The new facility - totalling 900,000 square feet - is expected to create a minimum of 745 clean energy direct jobs in the next three years, and have an annual production capacity of up to 20,000 all electric buses and trucks.
Scaling electric bus production and decarbonising freight and transportation
As the US moves to electrifying its school buses, the additional production capacity at the facility will help Lion Electric to scale its electric bus production, as well as produce an increased volume of heavy-duty zero-emission trucks to help governments and operators in the US further the decarbonisation of freight and transportation fleets.
“Lion is the leader in electric school buses and has always been dedicated to the U.S. market, and our commitment to be close to our customers is one of the core values we have as a company. This significant expansion into the U.S. market will not only allow us to drastically increase our overall manufacturing capacity of electric trucks and buses but to also better serve our customers, while adding critical clean manufacturing jobs that will form the backbone of the green economy,” said Marc Bedard, CEO and Founder of Lion.
“I also want to acknowledge the crucial role that P33 and Intersect Illinois, civic groups committed to developing developing a long-term roadmap for the local tech industry, played in connecting Lion with the Chicago area’s business and civic community to help further commercial traction, as well as engagement with key workforce and supplier partners.”