Chinese AC maker vows to defeat Apple on handset products

Dong Mingzhu, chairman and president of Zhuhai-based Gree Electric, the world's largest specialized air conditioner manufacturer by sales, is apparently unsatisfied with its dominance only in the air-conditioner segment.

Gree Electric, the leading air-conditioner brand in China, will launch its second-generation Gree phone next year, according to Dong Mingzhu, the company's president.

Despite the fact that the brand's first smartphone product, launched this year, was never made available in stores, Dong, the outspoken Chinese female entrepreneur, has been hasty to notify the public that a new Gree phone is coming, describing it as "an overwhelmingly better product" than Apple's iPhone 6S.

The new Gree phone will debut in March 2016, and it is "not competing with Xiaomi, but iPhone," Dong told a conference in China recently, according to a Sina news report on Wednesday.

The new handset is reportedly to be equipped with a quad-core processor, a 5 inch/720p screen, 2GB RAM/16GB ROM, and an Android 4.4.4 system -- not a big improvement in configuration compared with the first generation's 1GB RAM/8GB ROM, or the first handset it made.

The phone will also be priced at around 6,000 yuan ($928), on a par with iPhone 6S' retail prices in the country, according to Dong.

Dong's grudge with Xiaomi, a top handset maker and seller in the country, has been a long story: In late 2013, in a well-publicised spat with Xiaomi's Lei Jun, Dong wagered that Xiaomi would be unable to catch up with her firm in turnover for the following five years, with the losing party rendering 1 billion yuan to the other. And last year, Dong slammed Xiaomi as "swindlers" after it bought shares in Gree's major competitor Midea.

Gree this year launched its first smartphone product, but it never publicly put it on sale as most of the handsets were consumed internally by Gree's shareholders and employees, according to reports from November.

The phone was once a hot topic in China as a portrait of Dong with an accompanying message from her appeared on its screen when powered on.

Dong said her portrait will remain in the upcoming new Gree phone as "it serves the tastes of mainstream young people born in the 90s", which will also "help improve the credibility of the smartphone".