Chinese smartphone brands have been major, if not dominant, players on the global smartphone scene (with the notable exception of North America) for half a decade. But while anyone who follows mobile technology from a distance will have heard of Huawei and Xiaomi, there is another Chinese brand, virtually unknown in the West and even an obscure name in its home country, which has the strongest hold on its target market.
It would be Tecno, based in Shenzhen, which has been selling smartphones in Africa since 2006, and whose nearly 20% market share on the continent makes it Africa’s leading phone brand. In fact, Tecno was recently named as the number six most admired brand in Africa (regardless of sector) by the publication African Business.
While Tecno still devotes a lot of resources and attention to maintaining its lead in Africa, in recent years the brand has ventured into other emerging markets such as Latin America, Southeast Asia , India and the Middle East. Today, Tecno sells phones in over 70 markets.
It’s not hard to see the pattern: Tecno has shunned developed and traditionally affluent markets such as North America, Europe and East Asia, in favor of developing markets.
The company’s chief executive, Jack Guo, basically admitted that the move was to avoid major competition and capture underdeveloped markets.
“When we got into the smartphone business, we visited more than 90 countries and analyzed the market,” says Guo, who has worked at Tecno since 2013. “Most of the brands focused on China and Europe. But there was a whole region with a large population and low phone penetration, so we decided to focus on that.”
Selling in Africa and other developing markets meant, of course, selling budget phones. And that’s the impression I got when I tested my first Tecno device two years ago. I thought the phone was fine for an entry-level handset, but it was clearly a budget phone that wasn’t meant to push industry standards. Little did I know that behind the scenes Tecno had already worked to aim higher.
This week, the company launched its first true series of flagship phones, the Phantom X2 and X2 Pro, in Dubai. With the top model priced around $900, this is Tecno’s most expensive phone many times over.
The Phantom X2 series, in fact, had a lavish launch in Dubai last week, representing Tecno’s move into richer markets. Now, we are not talking about the United States or Japan, but rather countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The Middle East represents an attractive market for Tecno, as consumers in this region have more purchasing power than, for example, Nigerian or Filipino consumers, but it is also a region free from red tape and geopolitical surveillance. that come with entering western markets, such as the US or the UK The region also has great growth potential, according to a recent report by research firm Canalyst pegged the Middle East for double-digit smartphone growth in 2023.
Tecno Deputy General Manager Laury Bai said the Phantom X2 Pro’s standout feature, this retractable portrait lens, has been in development for two years. The result of the company devoting part of its profits to R&D over the years. The company, however, declined to specify the exact amount.
Retractable camera technology, which sees the camera lens physically pop out of the body of the phone. This extended body gives the optics more room to pick up and process image information, as well as produce shots with more natural separation between subject and background.
I tested the phone and the portrait lens really works. This, together with the flagship chip and Tecno’s decision to equip the phone with Samsung’s flagship GN5 sensor, gives the Phantom X2 Pro the most capable hardware of any Tecno phone to date. It certainly looks and feels premium.
But as any marketing guru will tell you, making a great product is only half the battle, you still have to sell it to consumers, convincing them that the product and brand is the real deal. The Dubai launch event helped. The same goes for partnerships with known partners like Google, Intel and Microsoft. Regional representatives from each brand took the stage during the event. The days of launching Tecno phones with suspicious software are long gone. This time, the Phantom X2 Pro has Google’s full blessing and guarantees three years of software support.
The Dubai launch event also saw the introduction of Tecno’s second laptop. Like virtually every other phone brand, Tecno understands that building a connected ecosystem can bring further growth, and to that end the company has launched wireless headphones, routers, smartwatches and webcams over the course of the year. of the last two years. Their quality standards varied, but one thing remained constant: they were very affordable.
Tecno relies on the Phantom X2 series and its diverse product portfolio to conquer consumers and markets. But while Tecno will continue to build flagship phones in the future, Guo said the emerging market will remain the company’s top priority. The affordable entry-level phones that have proven popular from Nigeria to Ethiopia to Indonesia will still be the company’s main bread and butter for the foreseeable future.