By Gerard Ramos / Lifestyle & Entertainment Editor
WELL, that was quick.
Wasn’t it only recently when it was reported in this newspaper and elsewhere that Apple, thanks in particular to its lust-worthy iPhone 6 Plus, has become the No. 1 smartphone vendor in China, the largest market for smartphones in the world by sheer population alone, and the market that just about every consumer electronics company, big and small, is eyeing to conquer?
To paraphrase that delicious Dinah Washington song: What a difference a quarter makes.
According to a just-released report by analyst firm Canalys, the Cupertino, California-based company has been bumped off from its Chinese market-leading perch—and bumped off to not only the second spot, mind you, but third place in terms of the number of smartphones shipped and sold in China in the second quarter of 2015. The Canalys report is echoed by a separate one released by the Asia-based market research and consulting firm Counterpoint Technology Market Research.
Which smartphone vendor delivered the blow to Apple’s fortunes? Most likely, you would assume that it is Samsung, whose twin flagship smartphones, the Galaxy S6 and the Galaxy S6 edge, made splashy debuts in the second quarter. However, according the Canalys report, the global consumer electronics giant based in South Korea could only muster a disappointing fourth-place finish (according to Counterpoint’s report, it finished fifth behind Vivo Electronics Corp., a smartphone vendor also based in China), as Apple’s iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus continued to find greater favor in the Chinese market than Samsung’s latest top-tier offerings.
It was two Chinese companies, however, that took the wind out of Apple’s sails (or sales). According to the Canalys report, Xiaomi, riding on the coattails of its well-received Mi 4, Mi 4i and Redmi Note 4G, took a leading 15.9 percent of the smartphone market in China, while Huawei, spurred no doubt by the huge success of the Honor 7, scored a 15.4-percent share. And Apple’s? A 12.2-percent market share.
Xiaomi has certainly been generating plenty of buzz, not just in China, as the company launched in late July around these part the Mi 4i, with no less than Steve Vickers, general manager for Xiaomi Southeast Asia, flying in to do the honors. While we haven’t been able to get our hands on the company’s latest smartphone offers, the Mi 4i is apparently targeted at the mid-range market with an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processor, plus dual SIM with dual standby support, 2 gigabytes RAM, higher-capacity battery to provide more juice, 5MP front-facing camera and built-in 16-GB storage. The original Mi 4, on the other hand, features a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, 3-GB RAM, 8-MP front-facing camera, and is available in 16-GB/64-GB storage variants.
Unlike Xiaomi’s new mid-range offering, the Mi 4 has no dual-SIM support and a less power-packed battery, but both provide users with no memory expansion as there’s no memory card slot to be found in either smartphones, like in Samsung’s latest flagships—a page obviously taken from Apple’s sealed-off smartphone.
True, this particular omission hasn’t hurt iPhone sales, but we always prefer to have the option to supplement our smartphone’s built-in memory. After all, from where we sit, you can never have too much entertainment available on demand, especially given the traffic situation around these parts, where a cab ride that should take 15 minutes with reasonable traffic can stretch to an hour-long ordeal.
Which brings us to Sony’s just-announced additions to its smartphone portfolio. Of course, the Japanese consumer electronics giant typically makes its major smartphone reveals at the annual Internationale Funkausstellung Berlin trade show in Berlin in September, which may or may not explain why the new releases don’t include anything under Sony’s flagship Xperia Z series of smartphones.
However, flagship or not, Sony new releases—the Xperia M5 and the Xperia C5—have not only memory-expansion slots, but also more than enough bullet points to induce gadget lust in every smartphone junkie, and for the company to label them as “super mid-range” offerings instead of just simply “mid-range.”
The M5, according to Sony, “has an impressive 21.5-MP main camera (and a 13-MP front-facing shooter that come) with fast and accurate Hybrid AF, 5X Clear Image Zoom and 4K Video” capture support. Obviously with the growing global selfie community in mind, the M5’s so-called 5x Clear Image Zoom allows you to get close without losing quality, while its 0.25-second Hybrid Autofocus should make blurry snaps of random moments a thing of the past.
Still, all things considered, it’s the Sony Xperia C5 that has grabbed our attention—and with good reason. After all, it’s the first and only smartphone targeted at the mid-range market that boasts of a 13-MP camera in the front and back, with both shooters packing the company’s leading Exmor RS sensor and HDR for picture and video. Even better for the selfie-obsessed, the front camera’s “a 22mm wide-angle lens also means that you can fit more in the frame,” and is supplemented by an enhanced Selfie Flash to ensure that your snap of you making a fool of yourself over the weekend in some club isn’t bathed in darkness.
Equally notable about the Xperia C5 is the high-quality viewing experience it promises with that “large 6” full-HD display with IPS featuring Sony’s TV technology Mobile BRAVIA Engine 2 [letting] you enjoy your videos and pictures in the finest detail. Pushing the envelope further, the company appears to have succeeded in whittling down to a razor-thin sliver the bezels flanking the large display, making for “a near borderless display.” Seriously, we almost peed in our pants when we saw the images of the Xperia C5.
Needless to say, we eagerly await for the local office of Sony to launch its new smartphones around these parts, especially the Xperia C5.