In the Chinese handset market a disruptive innovation revolution is taking place. China’s domestic mobile phone manufacturers are having a hard time to stay alive and also big multinational brands struggle to keep their market share (Nokia saw their sales in China decrease last year). Established handset manufacturers are anxiously looking for new business models. What’s going on, what is changing the largest handset market in the world?

Go Shanzhai!
It is the rise of the Shanzhaiji (山寨机), the so called “Bandit Cell Phones”. In 2008 alone over 250 million Shanzhaiji handsets where produced. The handsets are mainly targeted for China’s rural markets and are extremely cheap feature-to-feature compared to established brands (starting at $40). Moreover the style and designs are constantly evolving and changing.

From Copycat to Culture
As Scully Meng, Journalist & Editorial Assistant at Chinadialogue, described it at Mobile Monday Beijing #28, Chinese youth are “seeking for fun to get away from the stressful, high speed, unstable monotonous urban lifestyle.” As a result there is a great need for entertainment and eye catching gadgets that make you stand out from the others. Though Shanzhai started out at as “creatively imitating the famous”, nowadays, according to Scully, the copycats have evolved into a phenomenon that is “at the edge of Chinese creative culture”.

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