As contract phones approach 60% in China, Meizu cries foul, calls preinstalled carrier apps “a pile of garbage”
Just a few years ago Chinese carriers exercised very little control over mobile phone market. Most of mobile phones were sold without carrier contracts and subsidies, through third party retail channels. This gave the rise to incredible innovation in Chinese mobile phones, with hundreds of cellphone factories operating out of Shenzhen district.
It also facilitated the rise of the emerging Chinese brands like Meizu, Xiaomi, Oppo and Coolpad.
But as Chinese carriers rolled out 3G networks, to promote smartphone and mobile data use, they introduced contracts and subsidies, and started gradually taking over mobile phone sales channels. According to data from China’s Ministry of Information – home market mobile phone shipments will reach 400 million units in 2013, 320 million of them – smartphones. Out of these 400 million devices, China Mobile will ship 100 million, China Telecom – 70 million, and China Unicom – 50 million contract phones. Which means that by the end of 2013, carriers will control over 60% of smartphone sales and become the dominant sales channel.
With contracts and subsidies, Chinese carriers started adopting all the worst practices of their partners in the West. Picking and choosing the winners, dictating onerous terms to smartphone OEMs, bundling their own services, loading smartphones with bloatware, etc;
Most of the smaller smartphone OEMs are not happy with the way things are going. But there’s little they can do, so they keep quiet and do what they can to get to the carrier good graces. Until now.
After the negotiations to get their smartphone on China Mobile fell through, Meizu’s Founder and Chairman J.Wong unleashed an angry tirade on company’s support forums:
“…China Mobile demands too much customization of the smartphone. I’m not even talking about a pile of garbage of preinstalled applications, but they also want to remove or alter many of the original features and user friendly design of Flyme (Meizu’s custom Android skin). Meizu can not accept this evil compromise”
J.Wong’s missive sparked a heated debate about increasing carrier influence in China. Carriers insist they are doing nothing wrong, except to care for their customers, web pundits are weighing in favor of Meizu’s arguments and government is staying on the sidelines for now.
It would be interesting to see where this debate leads in the end.