Chinese upstart Realme looks to take on Apple, Samsung as it launches its first high-end smartphone overseas


Chinese smartphone brand Realme is set to launch its first high-end smartphone overseas next week in a bid to grow market share in Europe and continue its rapid growth.

The move will pit the company, which began in 2018, against the likes of Apple and Samsung which dominate the high-end segment, as well as Chinese rival Xiaomi which has grown quickly overseas.

The GT 2 and GT 2 Pro smartphones will launch on Monday at the annual Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. It is the company’s first appearance at the world’s biggest mobile trade conference, underscoring its desire to grow market share outside of China.

“In China and the European market, we want to focus on the breakthrough to the high-end market,” Realme CEO Sky Li said in an exclusive interview, according to a CNBC translation of his Mandarin remarks.

“In the European market, as well as any other market, we position ourselves as providing affordable phones with outstanding performance and trendy design. In the European market, we have the same strategy.”

Lofty targets

Realme may not be well-known to consumers in Western Europe or the U.S. but it has been growing quickly. In the fourth quarter, Realme shipped 20.65 million smartphones, up 48% year-on-year, according to data from Counterpoint Research. Apple meanwhile saw a decline while Samsung saw just 8% growth.

However, Realme is comparatively small with a global market share of just 6%. Apple shipped around 81.5 million smartphones in the December quarter, for example, Counterpoint Research data shows.

The Realme GT 2 Pro smartphone is pictured. The Chinese smartphone maker hopes its first high-end device will help it gain market share in Europe and other regions.

But Realme has made headway in markets with more price-conscious consumers where its lower priced, yet high spec phones have found appeal. It is the second-largest smartphone player in India.

CEO Li is hoping to maintain that healthy growth this year.

“In 2021, we managed 50% growth. In the past three years, we kept high growth. In 2022, we want keep the growth rate, at 40% or 50%,” Li told CNBC, adding the company wants to sell more than 85 million phones globally.

Apple, Samsung challenge

Realme faces a number of challenges in its push to gain share in the high-end market, most notably trying to convince consumers to buy their devices instead of from established players like Apple, Samsung and even Xiaomi.

The GT 2 will retail for around $600 while the GT 2 Pro will start at around $800.

“Its next challenge will be to convince customers who are used to purchasing established brand names to pay similar prices for Realme,” Harmeet Singh Walia, senior analyst at Counterpoint Research, told CNBC.

“In this regard, while it will face some challenge from Samsung and Apple, it will also face a challenge from vendors such as Xiaomi and OnePlus that sell devices in a similar or its desired price range.”

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