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Chinese handset makers may challenge S. Korea companies

SEOUL, The Korea Herald/Asia News Network--Chinese handset makers such as Huawei and ZTE are catching up in the fast-changing smartphone industry.

Huawei, a Shenzhen-based telecom equipment manufacturer that has turned its focus to consumer products in recent years, shipped some 10.8 million smartphones to surpass Nokia and Research In Motion (BlackBerry) in the fourth quarter of last year.

ZTE, the second-largest telephone equipment maker in China, is also eager to boost this year's smartphone shipments with a new lineup of premium handsets running on the fourth-generation Long Term Evolution networks.

“At present, consumers can easily recognize Apple or Samsung branded smartphones,” said Lv Qianhao, global marketing director at ZTE's handset division, during a briefing in Hong Kong on Jan. 30. “We hope consumers can also easily recognize ZTE's brand in the future.”

The global smartphone industry has seen big changes in recent years since the introduction of Apple's iPhone in November 2009. Samsung Electronics rose as the world's biggest handset manufacturer and once-strong IT behemoths such as Nokia, RIM and HTC fell from the list of the top five global brands.

According to researcher International Data Corp., Samsung was the world's No. 1 smartphone vendor, with 63.7 million shipments and a 29-percent market share in the fourth quarter. Apple Inc. followed with 47.8 million shipments and a 22-percent market share. Huawei was ranked third with 10.8 shipments and a nearly 5-percent market share and ZTE was fifth in IDC's rankings, shipping 9.5 million smartphones in the fourth quarter.

Local Market

The Chinese rivals have not been active in releasing new smartphones in South Korea despite their strong overseas growth in sales and shipments.

Huawei is currently putting its smartphone roll-put plan on hold here, while ZTE released “Z Phone” through the country's online shopping site G-market on Nov. 6.

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