Wang Zijian, a Chinese cross-talk artist, announced earlier this month that he was to found a smartphone startup and the first product with “brand new user experience” would be available next summer.

Luo Yonghao, an English as a foreign language teacher, launched the first Android phone by his smartphone startup Smartisan earlier this year, two years after the founding of the company.

Dakele, or big coke, was founded by Ding Xiuhong, former deputy editor-in-chief at online news service Netease, in June 2012, around the same time Smartisan was established.

The selling points with the big coke is its Android phones have big screens (two years back there were not many big-screen phones) and improved software. Smartisan, apart from having dramatically redesigned the interface of the Android system, hired Ammunition Group for industrial design.

Customized Android system and hardware design are the two things the newly emerged Chinese smartphone makers are focused on to differentiate from other Android phones, most of which are Shanzhai.

Thanks to chip solution providers like Taiwan-based MediaTek, a plenty of OEMs in China and the open-source Android system, making smartphones became so much easier. An abundance of Shanzhai Android phones, which look similar to well-known smartphone brands  (Some Android phones look a lot like iPhones), emerged in China in the past several years. Although some Shanzhai phones did come up with creative features, especially those tailored to Chinese users, they’ve always been recognized as low-end products.

This is where everyone from non-smartphone industries came in. They are aimed to build brands, through hardware designs and custom Android firmwares, so that they can charge premium prices or sell more units than weaker branded Shanzhai phones.

A bunch of new Chinese Android phone brands, including OnePlus, OONE and IUNI, that were launched in the first half of this year are all in the same direction.

Many in China believe almost all of the newly emerged were inspired by Xiaomi, which has successfully built a brand and is shipping increasingly more handsets. Apart from products, there’s one thing they think Xiaomi has done so well: marketing. Xiaomi is so good at attention seeking; some English teachers, cross-talk artists and media gurus must be good at it too.

But it still seems hard if you want to make a big difference. Smartisan knows it well. The Smartisan’s first phone T1 is made by Foxconn, the same manufacturer that has been producing iPhones for years, but the yield rate is low due to the hardware design. In a blog post dated July 20 — a dozen days after Smartisan T1 began shipping,  Luo Yonghao the English teacher said the yield rate was lower than the worst they had expected.

Tracey Xiang

Tracey Xiang is Beijing, China-based tech writer. Reach her at

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