Chinese Smartphones: Faster, Higher, Stronger, but Are They Better?

Realme launched its latest smartphone the Realme GT Neo 5 in China on February 9. Its powerful 240W fast charging is firmly in the first tier of charging speeds in the global smartphone market. There are more than a few Chinese branded phones that focus on battery performance, but how are they actually doing? From the current situation, we might need to admit that global brands have been left quite far behind by Chinese brands, particularly in terms of batteries.

Realme launched its new product with a big focus on charging speed. It’s no wonder that most Chinese smartphones have recently prioritized battery capacity and charging speeds as their main selling points. Take for example Redmi Note 12 Discovery Edition with 210W charging, and the iQOO 11 Pro released last year, which also has a 100% charge in 10 minutes with 200W fast charging. It’s quite obvious that battery performance is one of the main selling points of Chinese smartphones. Whether in the same price bracket or compared to high-end flagship smartphones from brands such as Samsung, Chinese smartphones have a more prominent advantage in terms of charging speed and battery performance. But how did this come about?

First, the price range determines the target audience for Chinese brands. Low-priced and cost-effective, these are the most common traits of well-known Chinese smartphone brands. Offering a low price for long battery life, being lightweight (thanks to the plastic case) and also jam-packed with all sorts of features that are not amazing, but are at least workable, they reap the benefits of a broad and large group of consumers ranging from Gen Z to the elderly, and from students to blue-collar workers. Practicality and ease of use are the first things most people require in a smartphone. In order to win this massive consumer base, it is more cost-effective for the brand to develop better charging technology and battery capacity to solve the “battery life anxiety” shared by the general public in modern society than to upgrade other performance factors. Behind this battle of the Chinese brands, which keep on refreshing their battery performance, is the fight for a larger consumer market.

Second, as the world’s largest manufacturer in general, China also became the biggest battery manufacturing country in the world in 2022. Though there is always criticism that China’s innovation industry has little to offer, a strong enough manufacturing industry will naturally promote the development of new technologies. In terms of batteries, while the research and development of lithium batteries has been saturated, lithium manganese iron phosphate and sodium-ion batteries will enter the commercial application stage in the next two to three years. Chinese battery manufacturer CATL’s first generation of sodium-ion batteries has broken through the bottleneck of sodium-ion battery technology, paving the way for the innovation and development of new energy electric vehicles and smartphone batteries. From tracking and imitation to independent innovation, it seems to be possible that the technology and innovation of Chinese brands will see a quantitative and qualitative improvement in the coming years.

The hunger for a share of the global market and the gradual growth of Chinese technology driven by manufacturing is fully embodied in the development of Chinese smartphone batteries. When compared side-by-side, the battery performance of other well-known smartphone brands appears to be less satisfactory, such as Samsung’s latest Galaxy S23 Ultra, which has a 45W charging, and the iPhone 14 series supports 20W fast charging, taking roughly one hour to fully charge these phones. 

The promising future of Chinese branded smartphones is particularly evident in terms of battery, but the other performance issues of these phones seem to be an accepted fact in the global market — not up-to-date updates, severe bloatware issues, less-than-ideal camera quality, the list goes on. Strong battery technology does not mean everything. Whether these other performance and hardware aspects can break through the existing perception of the public in the next few years is the key for Chinese brands to establish a good reputation in the eyes of the global public.

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