BBK Vies for Pole Position in Smartphone Market

World’s Second-Largest Smartphone Maker Puts the Heat on Samsung

BBK Electronics is a giant of a company, but a stealthy one. Based in Dongguan in southern China, BBK isn’t a well-known name outside its home territory, but its brands are having a major impact on the global smartphone market.

BBK is the owner of, either directly or indirectly, the Oppo, OnePlus and Vivo smartphone brands. It also makes other consumer electronics including Blu-ray players and headphones. But in the smartphone business, BBK is moving massive volumes and has established itself one of the world’s most influential companies.

We estimate that in total, BBK’s subsidiaries shipped about 60 million smartphones during the third quarter of 2018. This means that, as a conglomerate, BBK is the second-largest smartphone maker in the world. It already sells more units than Huawei, which shipped 52 million smartphones in the same quarter. Samsung shipped 72 million smartphones and Apple sold 47 million iPhones in the same period. CCS Insight’s detailed analysis of the global mobile phone market in 3Q18 will be released to clients this week.

BBK’s strategy of spreading sales across several brands isn’t unlike that used by car-makers that maintain several brands, each one with a slight differentiation from the others. General Motors, for example, sells vehicles under its Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac, GMC, Holden and Wuling Motors brands. This approach has allowed it to target specific slices of the market and offer greater choice, while dispersing fixed costs over greater volumes.

Although smartphones from Vivo and Oppo compete against each other, Vivo tends to offer more-affordable prices, while Oppo focusses more on mid- and high-tier devices. OnePlus, on the other hand, has established itself as a brand offering highly specified phones to cost-conscious consumers, often introducing new features, such as an in-screen fingerprint sensor, before Samsung, Apple and LG.

BBK now accounts for almost one in every six smartphones sold around the world, and is only a few points behind market leader Samsung. BBK has gained massive scale in a short amount of time. Only three years ago, its brands sold about 5 percent of global smartphone volumes.

BBK has already become the largest smartphone maker in China and India, and now, with the OnePlus brand, it’s slowly creeping into Western markets and has already enjoyed some high-profile success stories. If current trends hold, it could become the global leader in smartphone shipments within several quarters.

The Chinese company is a privately held business, so many details are opaque. However, one thing is clear: BBK is one to watch out for. BBK entered the smartphone market after being encouraged by Apple’s success and realizing that this market was about to get very, very big. Many people in the communications business still haven’t heard of BBK Electronics, despite its size. We believe this is about to change.