Upwardly Mobile: Shanzhai Phones’ Declining Popularity

Manufacturers of cheap “shanzhai” cellphone copies are finding app compatibility more difficult to clone than the hardware features of earlier handsets. From Global Times:

“Shanzhai mobile phones are not as popular as in the past. More and more people like 3G smart phones. Last year, I could sell at least 20 shanzhai mobile phones in one day, but now just 5 or 6, ” said Li, the shanzhai phone retailer.

“In the 2G era, users cared about functions. But now, no one talks about Bluetooth and cameras; consumers are fascinated by software applications, like Angry Birds and . Shanzhai mobile phones can’t support these applications well,” Li added ….

“The turnkey solution is not valid in the 3G era. Now the competition is in mobile phone operating systems (OS), between Microsoft’s Windows Mobile, Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android. The three giants can call on a huge number of application developers for their OS to attract manufacturers and users. The whole industry has changed, and chipset manufacturers can’t dominate the industry anymore,” Guo said.

“Shanzhai phone manufacturers are very weak in research and development. In the 2G era, they relied on the turnkey solution.

“Their ‘research and development’ is only in designing the shell of the phones or combining provided mobile phone functions.”

See also: a 2009 New York Times report on the rise of shanzhai cellphones, and a sociologist’s story of smartphones’ potency as status symbols, via CDT. For background on the term “shanzhai” 山寨 (“mountain stronghold”), consult our Grass Mud Horse Lexicon.