Lenovo smartphones launch in 10 EU countries: Here's why western Europe won't get them

Lenovo smartphones launch in 10 EU countries: Here's why western Europe won't get them

Summary: Lenovo is targeting European countries in a big way - but don't expect to see its brand name on devices in western Europe's major markets.


Lenovo is planning to start selling smartphones in 10 new European Union countries in an effort to expand its mobile business.

The Chinese hardware manufacturer has already launched handsets in Romania and the Czech Republic, and plans to do the same in Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovakia, Greece, and Turkey in the coming weeks. Next in line are Poland, in November, and Croatia and Slovenia in the next quarter.

The hardware manufacturer is aiming high in terms of sales expectations. "Initially our goal is to reach a five percent market share in a space of six months. We want to quickly get to the double digit figure in a year from now," Ivan Bozev, regional general manager at Lenovo South-East Europe, said on Thursday during a visit to the Romanian capital of Bucharest. Lenovo's aspiration are in keeping with previous efforts, as the company quickly reached that double digit market share in other markets it's entered.

For Romania, one of the largest countries in the region, Lenovo has chosen to launch mid-range and entry level smartphones. Three A Series handsets — the A859, A536, and A32 — together with two S Series devices, the S860 and S850, were announced here earlier this week.

"The market is shifting a little bit, from the premium devices to mid-range and entry level. And quite frankly it’s simply because the technology has improved so much that at mid-range price point you get a smartphone that does everything you want as a consumer," said Aymar de Lencquesaing, SVP and EMEA president at Lenovo.

The most affordable of the pack, the Lenovo A328, costs 500 RON (€114). It has a 4.5-inch 854 x 480 display, quad-core 1.3GHz CPU, 1GB of RAM and a 2000mAh battery. It sports a five-megapixel rear camera and a two-megapixel front-facing equivalent. The device runs Android 4.4 KitKat.

The most expensive handset is the Lenovo S860, at 1200 RON (€273). It has an all-glass exterior with a five-inch 720p IPS display. The smartphone also has a 1.3GHz quad-core MediaTek processor with 1GB of RAM. The S860 sports a 13-megapixel rear camera, and a five-megapixel front camera.

The company is highlighting its 4000mAh battery that allows up to three days of use in a charging cycle — the reason why the S860 is the primary smartphone of Lenovo's EMEA president. "I’m the travelling type. I sometimes jokingly say that I rarely sleep in the same bed two nights in a row," de Lencquesaing said.

In Eastern Europe, Lenovo has partnered with both retailers and telcos in order to sell the newly-launched devices. The main target is consumers rather than enterprises, as people usually use their own devices at work in the region, and it is difficult for companies to impose a certain product or brand.

Why Western Europe won't get Lenovo phones

The Chinese hardware manufacturer is only planning to launch smartphones under the Lenovo brand in eastern European countries, following its acquisition of Motorola.

"In the west, our intention is to build on what already has been done by Motorola. Motorola is present now in a number of European markets — in the UK, in Germany, in France, in Italy, in Spain — and so we would rather accelerate what Motorola has done rather than stop and do it with the Lenovo brand. Our intention when the [Motorola] deal closes is to invest and push and accelerate the Motorola rollout in Western Europe," de Lencquesaing said.

Lenovo believes it's smarter to launch one brand in a particular place and to focus on it, then, at some point, there might be room to introduce the other. "We’re putting the final touches on the acquisition of Motorola. We’re two separate companies and we're waiting for all the regulatory approvals," Lenovo’s EMEA president said.

In January this year, Lenovo acquired the Motorola Mobility smartphone business from Google, to strengthen its position in the growing market. The purchase price was $2.9bn.

Windows Phone plans?

The Chinese company has had a long lasting collaboration with Microsoft, but for the moment there aren't any plans around the launch of a Windows Phone handset in Romania.

"We like the Windows platform for phones as an operating system. So while the majority of what we do is Android-based, it doesn't mean that we wouldn't at some point launch a Windows phone in Romania, but this is not on the agenda today," de Lencquesaing said.

Lenovo's launch in Eastern Europe will put even more pressure on local brands, which are having a hard time dealing with the competition created by the market's titans, Samsung and Apple.

"The dynamics of this business are such that it is extremely difficult to survive in the lung run if you only have four, six or ten percent market share in a market the size of Romania," Lenovo's EMEA president said.

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Topics: Mobility, Lenovo, Smartphones, EU

Andrada Fiscutean

About Andrada Fiscutean

Andrada Fiscutean has been covering science and technology for more than six years. She also writes for PRO TV Group, the largest media organization in Romania.

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  • That market shift is real in many countries

    The U.S. may be a different case, because there is wide availability of cheap subsidized top phones, but in other countries subsidies are not very attractive or don't even exist, so most users prefer to pay the full price and then take prepaid plans. It is so here in Brazil, where multiple-SIM phones are also wildly popular (which is why the country has more active cell phone lines than inhabitants - even the Galaxy S5 has a dual-SIM version here), enabling people to take advantage of more than one carrier's offers at once. (Carrier locking is not a problem: it's forbidden by law here, even when the phone is subsidized - the contract and penalties are deemed enough to keep the customer.) The iPhone is very much appreciated and coveted, but it's so outrageously expensive here (at least $1,200 USD, often more!) that it's really an élite niche product with a tiny market share.

    Android phones are often seen as offering a better cost/benefit ratio and they own the Brazilian market now, but top Android phones like the Galaxy S5 and the LG G3 have the same problem as the iPhone, and either people can't afford them or think they're not worth the expense. However, at the same time, people are moving up, and while until not so long ago very cheap and simple phones (even feature phones) were the biggest sellers, now it's mid-range Android smartphones that are selling like hot cakes. The Moto G, for example, has waiting lists in some places, and sells more than the Moto X by an order of magnitude (but, significantly, it also sells much more than the cheaper Moto E).

    I'm an example myself. I just got an LG Optimus L7 II Dual. It's far from perfect and nowhere near a top phone's specs, but it has a great IPS screen, surprisingly fast performance, a very decent camera, lots of nice features, does everything I need very well, and LG has confirmed a KitKat update soon. All that for A FIFTH of the price I'd have to pay for a Galaxy S5. You can't beat that in cost/benefit ratio - while the S5 is definitely much better than my model, it's not better to the point of justifying that huge price difference.

    One must also remember that what is considered a "mid-range" phone now has specs and performance equivalent to what was a flagship phone only 2 or 3 years ago, many of which are still in use - and they made people drool about them at the time of their launch, and their users were very happy.

    So, Mr. de Lencquesaing is right: at this stage, mid-range phones are good enough to satisfy many, if not most users, they offer excellent cost/benefit ratios, and are a red-hot market segment for industries to earn a lot of money from. I don't doubt that even in Western Europe, where they intend to focus on the Motorola brand, they may follow a similar strategy. After all, mid-range phones are exactly what is making Motorola a success again.
    • Windows Phone 8

      Isn't Windows Phone 8 is even a better value compared to all the other high end Android and Apple (crApple) phones there?

      Lenovo should make Windows Phone 8.1 mobile handsets now because there is no cost to use Windows Phone 8.1 mobile handset operating system.
      • The problem is, consumers reject Windows Phone

        They want to use the same apps that their friends use, and the availability of apps for Windows Phone still lags far behind Android (and iOS as well, but people here usually don't have many friends who have iPhones, so Android sets the standard). There is also a great rejection to the tiled interface - people find it clumsy.