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There’s a surprising new top-five player in the smartphone market

There’s a surprising new top-five player in the smartphone market

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Analysts are reporting that Transsion, the Chinese company behind brands like Tecno, Itel, and Infinix, has quietly overtaken Vivo.

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Tecno Phantom V Fold foldable.
The Phantom V Fold, from Transsion brand Tecno.
Image: Tecno / Transsion

Transsion, a Chinese smartphone manufacturer whose brands include Tecno, Itel, and Infinix, has quietly grown to become the world’s fifth largest smartphone manufacturer, according to recent market reports from Canalys (via Android Central), IDC, and Omdia

Despite being one of the few smartphone brands to grow in the third quarter of this year, many in Europe and North America won’t have heard of Transsion given its focus on markets in Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, Asia, and Oceania. Transsion has a particularly strong base in Africa, according to IDC, where it sells more phones than Samsung and Xiaomi. Although this suggests Transsion is focused on affordable smartphones, its Tecno brand recently released its first foldable device.

Canalys chart showing Transsion’s growth.
Canalys chart showing Transsion’s growth.
Image: Canalys

The exact quarter Transsion entered the global top five differs depending on whose reports you trust the most. IDC and Omdia have Transsion overtaking Vivo in the second quarter of this year, while Canalys thinks it happened in the third quarter. But all three of them agree that it’s now a top five player behind traditional heavyweights Samsung, Apple, Xiaomi, and Oppo.

That said, Counterpoint Research’s latest report disagrees, placing Vivo in the fifth largest spot. But is also says Transsion was one of just a few brands to record year-on-year growth in Q3. Honor and Huawei also grew, with the latter benefitting from the release of the Mate 60 Pro with a processor that’s been held up as proof of advances in China’s domestic chipmaking capabilities despite US sanctions.

The reason for Transsion’s growth appears to be its focus on emerging markets, where demand has been relatively strong this year compared to more developed markets. Counterpoint notes that the Middle East and Africa was the only region to record year-on-year smartphone growth in the third quarter of this year, and says Transsion benefitted from this recovery. Meanwhile Canalys analyst Amber Liu says that Transsion (along with Xiaomi) has “swiftly capitalized on the rebound in the emerging markets with competitive products and channel engagements.”

The big question is whether Transsion will be able to hold on to this position, or whether 2023 will end up being an outlier. Counterpoint notes that 2023 is expected to be the worst year for smartphone shipments in a decade as people, mostly in developed markets, choose to replace their phones less often. If the trend continues, that could result in a big opportunity for manufacturers focused on emerging markets.