Probably many of you wondered sometimes why are all the smartphones so similarly looking. It looks like companies are stealing the design from other companies, but the harsh reality is that affordable phones are usually those that look like eggs. The reason for this is that most of the phones you are buying are designed and manufactured by five Chinese ODM (Original Design Manufacturer) companies which are being used by all the popular brands but in various percentages.
On this table which is translated by Google Translator you can see the percentages for the year 2020, and down below are the data for 2019 with some predictions for 2020 which are correct.
The mighty 5 are Huaqin, Wingtech, LongCheer, CNCE (Chino-E), TINNO, which take up to 85% of the ODM market. For example, in 2019, some 9% of Samsung phones were designed by ODM companies, 17% of Huawei devices, 49% of LG devices, and most importantly 54% of Nokia devices. In 2020, the percentage rose and now some 22% of Samsung devices, 18% of Huawei, 74% of Xiaomi, 89% of Lenovo, and 88% of Nokia phones are designed outside of the house. This means that the brand OEM is just tuning the details, but companies like Wingtech is doing all the rest.
Most of the Nokia devices announced in 2020 were not designed by Nokia Mobile, but rather ODEM companies, and probably only the feature phones were done by Nokia Mobile. This doesn’t mean that Nokia Mobile designers are not working on Nokia phones, but they probably do get sorted out a model and just change the end look, chose the materials and colors.
To be frank, I’m not a phone designer, nor do I work at the Nokia Mobile design studio, but the data published does offer us a glimpse of how the modern smartphone business is done, and that has nothing to do with how it used to be done. Actually, the largest brands are still mostly shaping the looks and feel of their main and most known models, but the affordable ones are mostly done by ODM companies to save up some money. Also, Xiaomi is now the third largest smartphone manufacturer and 74% of its phones are designed by someone else.
Smartphone industry has changed a lot, but does this mean that the end product is bad, or sucks? Well, based on the recently announced Nokia phones, I must say that Nokia Mobile and those Chinese companies (Huaqin, Wingtech, LongCheer, Chino) did a nice job designing Nokia 3.4 and 5.4, which look really nice.
Our good guy Indranil found the links from Omdia tech report which is the main source of the info, as well as the report from Counterpoint research that talks about the Chinese ODM companies that dominate the smartphone industry.