Auto giant Geely founder buys Meizu as smartphone demand dwindles TechCrunch

Do you remember Meizu, Xiaomi’s once promising competitor? The Alibaba-backed Chinese smartphone maker is making a comeback — in a sense — as it is acquired by the founder of Geely, China’s largest privately-owned carmaker and Volvo parent company.

The Chinese smartphone industry is notoriously competitive. Founded in 2003, Meizu makes affordable, trendy Android smartphones that made it famous at home and abroad for a short time. According to market research firm Counterpoint, the phone maker’s market share in China has been marginal of late, reaching 1% in the fourth quarter of 2019.

But the company is now taking another chance as Xingji Technology, a smartphone company launched last September by Geely founder and chairman Eric Li, acquired a 79.09% majority stake in it.

Meizu will continue to operate as an “independent brand” after the strategic investment. Its founder Huang Zhang, aka Jack Wong, will be involved as the brand’s “product strategy advisor”.

The partnership joins a series of phone and car manufacturers who are working more closely together and are betting on a future where in-car controls and handset operating systems are more integrated. Last March, Xiaomi set up a subsidiary to make electric vehicles and pledged to spend $10 billion on the new business over the next few years.

In the highly homogeneous consumer device market, Meizu and Xingji strive to build a “multi-device, scenario-agnostic and immersive” digital experience. Xingji was founded with a focus on premium smartphones, mixed reality and wearables.

It’s hard to get too excited about another new phone brand at a time when the global economy is slowing. According to market researcher IDC, global smartphone shipments are expected to fall by 3.5% this year. And there is plenty of competition. The upcoming Nothing phone, spearheaded by OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei, promises to be different with refreshing designs and affordability, but its success depends on the actual execution.

Xingji plans to release its first phone model by 2023 and sell 3 million units in the first year, Reuters previously reported. It will be no small feat to take on Apple and Huawei, the leaders of premium phones, and aspiring players like Oppo.

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