Business / Trendsetter

Big players may queer the pitch for domestic third-party firms

By Gao Yuan (China Daily) Updated: 2014-10-06 08:25

Third-party smartphone case makers may find the going tough as more companies contemplate independent manufacture of stylish, changeable cases, experts said.

Much of the action on the smartphone cases seem to be linked to the special features that mainstream phone makers are banking on to boost market share, like extended battery life and waterproof technologies.

Smartphone maker Xiaomi Corp, often called China's Apple, has been one of the early birds in this field and showcased more than a dozen back case designs during the recent launch of its flagship phone.

Lei Jun, chief executive of Xiaomi said the Xiaomi cases have been designed from various materials like bamboo, marble and denim, to suit the varied tastes of customers.

The Shenzhen, Guangdong province-based emerging smartphone brand OnePlus has also been making back cases using a variety of materials. It also sells self-made protection cases priced as low as 40 yuan ($6.6).

The biggest difference between introducing smartphone cases and selling other smartphone accessories is that the cases have to be specially designed to fit the size and button position of various handsets. It also means that case makers have to predict smartphone sales to make sure that the products they have is enough to cater to the market demand.

Most of the third-party case makers are teaming up with big smartphone makers like Lenovo Group Ltd, Huawei Technologies Co Ltd and Xiaomi as the monthly smartphone shipments of these companies easily exceed 1 million units.

Making cases for niche devices, on the other hand, could be a risky move. Once the sales fall below the required target, case makers will find it impossible to change the design and the manufacturing cost.

But with companies like Apple Inc, Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, Xiaomi, Huawei and Lenovo planning to make official changeable cases among other accessories, third - party firms like Belkin Corp and Ozaki International Co Ltd will find it rather difficult to find buyers. Instead, these companies would have to focus more on stylish designs and top-notch quality to attract customers.

Chinese phone case maker Qanroad Co Ltd, for instance, only makes products from cow leather. The company has more than 20 authorized stores in Huaqiangbei, Shenzhen, the world's largest electronics equipment distribution hub. It is also selling leather cases outside China for a higher profit margin.

Jack Chen, who owns an online retail shop that sells smartphone and tablet accessories on, the largest customer-to-customer platform in the country, said high end customers often look for unique designs when choosing smartphone cases.

"Regular cases are not much in demand because only a few people buy cases just for protection purposes," said Chen, adding products priced less than 100 yuan will often see more purchases.

"Phone cases are not selling well nowadays and mostly I sell cases for iPhone 5 and iPhone5S and Samsung's Galaxy series, There is very little demand for cases of other models."

The next two months may see a flurry of new gadget launches. Huawei, ZTE and Lenovo are all mulling on next-generation handsets to gain market share. These companies are also likely to introduce more accessories, as such moves will help them gain more attention from undecided buyers.

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