Cheaper Phones and Soccer Star Ronaldo Fuel China’s Europe Dream

  • Huawei, ZTE show off new phones at IFA to rival Apple, Samsung
  • Chinese producers sell at prices under 500 euros to win share

Chinese phone makers are launching new devices tailored to European consumers, betting they can grow sales with a cheaper price tag and offerings from ultra-high-definition video to advertising with soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo.

At Europe’s biggest consumer electronics show IFA in Berlin, manufacturers including Huawei Technologies Co. and ZTE Corp. showcased phones aimed at grabbing market share from incumbents Samsung Electronics Co. and Apple Inc. Their products rival the basic features of the Galaxy or iPhone, but at prices as much as 30 percent cheaper.

“European consumers look forward to good products at an affordable price,” of 250 euros to 450 euros ($280-$500), Adam Zeng, chief executive officer of ZTE’s mobile devices business, said in an interview at IFA. “We think ZTE smartphones can occupy this niche.”

Chinese phone manufacturers are under increasing pressure to seek new revenue as competition in their home market intensifies and growth slows. They’re spending more on marketing to become household names in Europe.

ZTE, which sponsors professional soccer clubs in Spain and Germany, unveiled the Axon 7 mini smartphone at IFA, which features surround sound and a high-definition display, starting at 299 euros. The company increased its market share to 15 percent in Russia, 10 percent in Spain and 6 percent in Germany in the second quarter and plans to spend more on marketing to become one of the top three sellers in its main markets, Zeng said.

Huawei, the world’s third-biggest seller of smartphones, demonstrated its new Nova and Nova Plus models, which come with a 12 megapixel camera that shoots 4K video. It said there’s demand from consumers for a device that’s in the 350- to 450-euro range and checks off three essentials: good design, camera and a battery that lasts a couple of days. They both forecast sales growth in Europe.

“We still have room to increase our market share in Europe, and launching mid-range  phones is part of that,” Kevin Ho, president of Huawei’s handsets division, said in an interview. Market share increased to almost 20 percent last year in countries like Spain and Italy.

China’s Nubia Technology Co., which grabbed attention by advertising with Real Madrid soccer star Ronaldo, showed off its flagship Z11 smartphone in Berlin that starts at 499 euros. It comes in a gold-colored Ronaldo special edition.

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE