Homegrown smartphone OSes gaining favor in China

Integration with local online services give homemade mobile operating systems by Chinese vendors edge over Western competitors in China's still-developing mobile market, market analyst says.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor

Locally-made mobile operating systems (OSes) for smartphones are on the rise in China, given that Chinese consumers remain more accustomed to indigenous online services--which homegrown OS players look to leverage and integrate into their OS.

In a report released Wednesday, research firm IDC said Chinese OS companies see the integration of local online services as a core competitive advantage over their Western counterparts, given that China's mobile market is still developing.

Ian Song, IDC's research manager for Asia-Pacific client devices research, said in the report: "The emergence of homegrown Chinese OS is also a manifestation of the market players' intense desire to build fences and drive stakes into the ground of the booming People's Republic of China (PRC) smartphone market. Many of these developers are utilizing homegrown OS as a platform to create additional revenue streams."

Vendors know "having a great OS is half the battle [won]", Song added, describing how many of these locally-developed Chinese mobile OSes are "thinly disguised attempts" at increasing their bottom line.

The report stated that homegrown mobile OS will be instrumental in bridging traditional mobile phone users to smartphones. By localizing the user environment and integrating services Chinese customers are familiar with, these OSes can increase data usage and speed up the development of mobile technology--all of which will help the Chinese mobile market catch up with the rest of the world, IDC noted.

Still, the research firm noted that despite the popularity, some homegrown OS players could well be short-lived, leaving only a few dominant players to go head-to-head with the western heavyweights in China.

According to IDC, this year will be the inflection point before smartphone shipments in China exceed that of feature phones by 2013. In 2012, it estimated that only 8 million more feature phones will be shipped than smartphones, out of the more than 280 million mobile phones shipments in total.

The accelerated smartphone growth was due to the push to have more 3G-enabled devices in China, the research firm said. Carriers see an opportunity in converting feature phone users to smartphones, where higher-priced mobile subscription plans and the average revenue per user (ARPU) will continue to grow, it explained.

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