Chinese companies usually have a strategy of launching new sub-brands when they want to reach a new audience: a younger demographic, gamers, tech enthusiasts, etc., just like companies in other countries launch new product lines. This kind of separation can be attributed solely to the immense size of the Chinese market, and you can see how such an effort becomes a profitable endeavor in positioning the various brands around the world.
The confusion that arises between the numerous names is compounded by the use of terms such as “independent”, which Poco – a subsidiary that spawned Xiaomi as a “flagship killer” – did explained himself be related to the parent company not just once but twice. This despite the fact that they continue to release renamed models from other brands in the group. For example, the Poco F3 (which was released in March 2021) is nothing more than a renamed Redmi K40.
Let’s try wading through the maze of Chinese smartphone manufacturers by looking at a snapshot of the family trees of the various Chinese smartphone manufacturers.
Samsung is the largest smartphone maker in the world, right? Depending on how the ranking is calculated, the actual answer can be very different. For example, when adding up the sales figures for 2020 based on data from In contrast, BBK Electronics brands (combined) have sold more phones than Xiaomi, Huawei, Apple, and Samsung.
As you may have noticed in the family tree graphic, BBK Electronics is the parent company that owns brands like Oppo, Realme OnePlus, iQOO, and Vivo. Established as a company in 2004, BBK was initially known for its DVD players before venturing into the more lucrative mobile phone manufacturing business.
In 2013, Pete Lau, an executive at Oppo Mobile, started a new brand called OnePlus. This new brand initially differentiated itself through an aggressive pricing policy combined with an online sales model. Despite being “independent”, many OnePlus models share the same specifications as Oppo devices, especially in the early years.
Another BBK subsidiary is the Realme brand. It was launched in 2018 and touted as an “affordable” brand aimed at younger audiences.
Vivo launched the iQOO brand in 2019 and initially started with a premium line. In India the brand is treated as an independent company, which is not (yet) the case in other markets. The degree of independence of the various divisions within BBK Electronics varies, but in general each of them has its own ecosystem of products and even custom user interfaces based on Android:
- Oppo – ColorOS
- Vivo – OriginOS (formerly FuntouchOS)
- OnePlus – OxygenOS (HydrogenOS in China)
- Realme – Realme user interface (still contains references to ColorOS)
- iQOO – iQOO user interface
At Xiaomi, the degree of independence of its subsidiaries is slightly lower compared to BBK. Several models introduced by a division entered the market under a different name and brand.
The Redmi range was launched in 2013 for the delivery of affordable smartphones where it was announced 2019, at the time of the launch of the Redmi Note 7, to be an independent brand.
Poco, on the other hand, emerged from the successful Pocophone F1, which was released in August 2018. The brand was born with DNA similar to OnePlus’, offering premium specs at a cheaper price. However, the second model didn’t hit the market until early 2020 with the Poco X2 (which in turn was based on the Redmi K30). That wasn’t all that good as it lacked the flagship killer tag (and specs for booting).
Since the degree of independence of the various Xiaomi brands is considered to be lower than that of the BBK brands, the sales figures of Redmi, Poco and Black Shark (which targeted the gaming segment) are usually listed by analysts and market advisors alongside those of the parent company .
The Xiaomi Group also controls or owns shares in other brands in various segments such as wearables (Huami, AmazFit), Smart Home (MiJia, YeeLight, Xgimi), personal transport (NineBot / Segway) and home suppliers (Chunmi, Viomi, Zhimi), Roborock ) and many others.
In the case of Huawei, the pedigree is far less complicated when compared to its competitors. It follows a more traditional vertical organization, with the only prominent subsidiary of the Chinese group being Honor. The brand was sold to a consortium of local companies late last year under US trade restrictions.
Like some of its direct competitors, Honor was born as a value for money from Huawei taking advantage of the parent company’s supply chain and logistics. This became an obstacle when US trade sanctions threatened the continuity of the brand, affecting the purchase of components that were used in the devices, among other things.
Lenovo is best known in the western smartphone market for the Motorola Mobility brand, which should not be confused with Motorola Solutions (where the latter specializes in telecommunications infrastructure) and was acquired by Google in 2014.
The group also had the LePhone and ZUK brands, which are now retired and currently include the German Medion and Legion Gamer lines.
The TCL Group is another group that has acquired various companies and is licensing the names of the France-based Alcatel and the Canadian BlackBerry (the latter ceasing its services in 2020). In addition to its own brands, TCL is currently responsible for the Palm line, which is still generally restricted in the USA.
The list of subsidiaries specializing in smartphones in the Asian country also includes:
- Nubia, created by ZTE;
- Infinix, Itel and Tecno – from the Transsion Group, particularly strong in Africa and Asia.
There are also dozens of other independent brands in the Chinese smartphone market such as Meizu, Umidigi, Hisense, Ulefone, Coolpad, Gionee, and Doogee, many of which make up a dark number of sales in the west, despite being available through huge online retailers.
Did we forget other brands in our family tree? Do you have a favorite among the companies mentioned? Leave your comment in the box below!