First Click: the great rectangles of China

April 14th, 2015

2

Why spend $600 on a name-brand phone when you can spend less than half for a no-name model? Both run the same version of Android, feature the same display and internal componentry, and same rectangular design. Hell, they’re even made by the same workers on the same assembly lines.

Looking at leaked images and specs for LG’s new G4 handset makes me wonder if the company is capable of mounting a defense to the commodification of smartphones. The market is being flooded with inexpensive Chinese phones of reasonable quality from brands like Letv, Oppo, Subor, Vivo, OnePlus, Coolpad, and more established names like Xiaomi, Huawei, and of course, Lenovo / Motorola.

The rise of the great Chinese rectangle was inevitable after a decade of contract manufacturing: China owns the supply lines, the manufacturing and assembly lines, and even the rare-earth minerals. It was only a matter of time until the legions of workers shifted from reverse engineering existing devices to building their own original designs.

Two hundred years ago the US, like China today, was a hotbed of piracy and technology theft. Japan, too, after World War II. Both countries rose to economic dominance by playing it fast and loose with intellectual property rights.

Question is: can Apple, Samsung, LG, and HTC survive when China does make the leap from smartphone copier to inventor?

Five stories to start your day



  1. After comparing Apple to Hitler, Chinese company reveals Le Superphone

    As a brand disaster Jia’s comments were unfortunate, but as content marketing they had their desired effect. Thousands of people around the world were introduced to fast-growing, loose-talking Letv, and anticipation for the company’s first smartphone shifted from nonexistent to "let’s see how it compares to Hitler."

  2. An unlikely hack lands Edward Snowden in The White House

    If you look at Google Maps right now, it appears he's marched all the way to the president's office, presumably to find out exactly who has copies of his dick pics.

  3. Watch Iron Man battle Ultron in the latest Avengers clip

    Marvel's latest snippet of Avengers: Age of Ultron footage is called Clip 1, but realistically it feels more like Clip 51 — so slick is the comic company's hype machine, fans could probably piece together the better part of the movie from the number of Marvel trailers and teasers posted in recent months.

  4. Apple’s Music app will get a major visual overhaul in iOS 8.4

    Popping up today on Apple's developer channel is iOS 8.4, which might end up being the last point release we get ahead of iOS 9, which is expected to be unveiled at Apple's annual developer conference later this year. New today is a revamped version of the Music app, which is of high interest given reports that Apple plans to relaunch a new version of the Beats streaming music service.

  5. Tennessee temporarily suspends executions statewide

    The court recently voided the scheduled execution dates of four inmates in response to concerns about the state's lethal injection protocol. In a court order filed last week, the state said all upcoming executions would be delayed until a trial court could comment on judicial challenges raised by the inmates.

Rectangle of the day

computer problems xkcd

The best of Verge Video