Apple had two missteps in China last month. First of all it was unable to reach a deal with China Mobile. As if that wasn’t enough, the “cheap” iPhone 5C many investors and analysts were expecting failed to materialize, leaving the Chinese market with a $730 iPhone 5 in a colourful plastic shell.
On a more positive note, Apple did include China in the 5S/5C launch. As a result, research firm IDC believes Apple can actually double its market share in China, but we wouldn’t bet on it. This is where it gets interesting. A number of big players are vying for the title of top Chinese smartphone maker – Lenovo, Huawei, Xiaomi and ZTE to name a few.
As Seeking Alpha notes, Xiaomi has already overtaken Apple to become the sixth biggest smartphone company in China. Its flagship Mi3 packs a Tegra 4 SoC under the bonnet, and so does the second-generation ZTE Geek. This means China Mobile, with its 744 million subscribers, will sell a couple of cheap Tegra 4 phones – and so far there’s no sign of an Apple deal.
Last month Xiaomi announced that Mi 2 sales exceeded 10 million units in 11 months. It’s got even bigger hopes for the Mi 3. There’s no word on ZTE Geek shipments, but the new Tegra 4 version is even cheaper than the Mi 3 ($308 vs. $327).
However, in spite of its Xiaomi and ZTE design wins, Nvidia’s Tegra 4 will never be a huge commercial success – it was just too late, it lacked LTE and it didn’t gain many high-volume design wins (LG and HTC tapped Qualcomm for their 2013 line-up). If the Mi 3 and ZTE’s Geek do well, they easily could account for more than a third of Nvidia’s total Tegra 4 sales, maybe even more.
The other thing Nvidia might have going for it in the Chinese market is the upcoming Tegra 4i. This 28nm part based on A9r5 cores should come cheap and earlier this year Nvidia showed off the Phoenix reference phone. If Nvidia manages to find a few takers in China, the Tegra 4i could be a very interesting product. However, it’s still too early to make any conclusions.