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This homegrown Chinese smartphone is now the world’s sixth best-selling phone

Reuters/Aly Song
The Coolpad aims to stay close to its #1 client.
By Lily Kuo
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Quartz continues its series profiling companies around the world experiencing explosive growth.

We’ve been watching the Coolpad, a smartphone made by a Shenzhen-based manufacturer, since learning that it’s outselling the iPhone in China. That’s even though its parent company China Wireless Technologies, listed in Hong Kong, is worth less than 1% of Apple’s market value. Now, the company ranks sixth globally among smartphone makers by global sales, according to third-quarter data from research firm Canalys.

That Coolpad is the third most popular handset brand (in terms of shipped phones) for the world’s largest cellphone market helps its global standing. But it has also started to sell its phones in Europe and the US through Vodafone and T-Mobile. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal published on Nov. 20, China’s vice president Zhang Guang-qiang said the company is also in talks with distributors in Taiwan and India.

Coolpad (or Kupai in Chinese, which can translate as “cool clique”) has a price advantage with China’s new smartphone buyers, though lately the company has also been trying to sell more mid to high-end phones. Its prices aim to undercut the competition abroad, too. The company unveiled its no-contract Coolpad Quattro 4G in the US last year for $150. As a CNET review of the phone put it: “Nothing fancy to be sure, but it ought to be plenty for first-time smartphone buyers.”

China is bound to remain Coolpad’s main focus, especially now that the country has spent almost $7 billion (paywall) building high-speed, fourth-generation wireless networks in the past year. And the government is expected to grant licenses to carriers to sell 4G phones before the end of the year. “The U.S. and European carriers love our customized smartphones…But China will remain the focus of the company as this big market is still underserved…We will launch 4G smartphones with Chinese carriers quickly to ride on the next wave of mobile technology.”

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