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Local smartphone eyes bigger piece of key sector

By Ma Si | China Daily | Updated: 2023-01-03 09:37

Consumers check out Oppo's foldable smartphone Find N2 Flip in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, in December. CHINA DAILY

Chinese tech company Oppo aims to compete with Samsung in the international market with its latest foldable smartphone Find N2 Flip as part of its broader push to expand its global presence.

The Find N2 Flip is a clamshell-style foldable that could pose a challenge to Samsung's Galaxy Z Flip4. Currently, clamshell-style foldables sell better than tablet-like foldables in overseas markets, which are attracting more smartphone vendors to tap into the segment, experts said.

The move also comes as Oppo has been working hard to beef up its technological prowess amid intensified competition and a larger market decline.

Pete Lau, senior vice-president and chief product officer at Oppo, said, "When facing the type of challenges that the technology industry is currently coming up against, we believe that the only way forward is to continue innovating and breaking new boundaries."

According to Oppo, the Find N2 Flip, which was unveiled in China earlier in December, features a large external display, which measures 3.26 inches diagonally and can be used to show everything from the weather to notifications, as well as serves as a viewfinder for the camera. That's significantly larger than Samsung's 1.9-inch external display for the Galaxy Z Flip4.

Oppo says it's rated for 400,000 folds, which means that, by its estimates, the mechanism should last for 10 years if consumers fold and unfold it 100 times a day. It has an ultra-thin glass coating, which Oppo said could help with durability.

Li Mingyang, head of product innovation at Oppo, said the company has more than 240 patents in the field of creases and hinges, which are important technologies for foldable smartphones and are just part of one corner of the company's technical moat.

As of September 2022, Oppo had filed patents in more than 40 countries and regions around the world, with more than 83,000 patent applications and 42,000 of them having been approved.

In China, Oppo has been among the top three enterprises in applying for invention patents for four consecutive years. In 2021, Oppo became the second most active Chinese patent applicant in Europe, behind only Huawei Technologies Co, according to the Munich-based European Patent Office. It was also one of several Chinese companies that made their way into the Top 50 in US patent rankings in 2021, data from US patent service provider IFI Claims showed.

The results came after Oppo doubled down on resources dedicated to R&D. Last year, it announced plans to recruit more than 2,000 R&D professionals, on top of its more than 10,000 existing R&D staff.

Chen Mingyong, founder and CEO of Oppo, said the company aims to be a tech pioneer through long-term R&D input. "We have the ability to sharpen the sword in 10 years. We will ramp up the push to build our technical moat."

Xiang Ligang, director-general of the Information Consumption Alliance, a telecom industry association, said even though Samsung's Galaxy Z Flip is one of the most commercially successful foldables, it is still plagued by a myriad of issues. It has a gap when folded, and the crease is still rather prominent.

The foldable form factor has been heralded as the new frontier in mobile technology, but the technology has recently been paralyzed by a certain degree of stagnation. If Samsung were to be challenged outside of China, that would help trigger more innovation, analysts said.

Oppo has also unveiled its mini notebook-like foldable smartphone Find N2 in China, but the company does not have an international launch plan for the model yet.

That leaves Honor as the only Chinese smartphone maker who's committed to competing with Samsung's tablet-style foldables internationally in 2023 when it is scheduled to release its Magic Vs in overseas markets.

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