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Chinese PC giant Lenovo is set to oust Samsung as the top smartphone manufacturer in the People’s Republic by next year, thanks to success at the mid-to-low end of the market, according to Gartner.

The analyst said in its top five 2013 predictions for IT in China that Lenovo, which earlier this year displaced HP as the world’s biggest PC manufacturer, has seen strong momentum in its mobile business.

Its smartphone market share rose from just 1.7 per cent in Q3 2011 to 14.8 per cent a year later, way ahead of Apple’s 6.9 per cent and just shy of Samsung’s 16.7 per cent.

Gartner had the following to say:

It is the only local smartphone player that can compete with global top brands in China, thanks to its household brand recognition, nationwide distribution, strong portfolio and reasonable pricing. The brand is positioned at the mid-to-lower end which will drive much of its future growth, and this is where global brands are less competitive. It will also gain share from open markets where its brand and distribution are better established than local competitors.

Success in the Chinese smartphone market could propel Lenovo to similar heights on the global stage, given the huge potential for growth in its domestic market – which has already overtaken the US as the world’s biggest.

Market watcher TrendForce reckons Chinese buyers will shell out for a whopping 294 million smartphones in 2013.

Lenovo’s strategy of targeting the cheaper end of the market, which is also being done with reasonable success by home-grown rivals ZTE, Huawei and others, is a canny one given the huge numbers of feature phone users in China who will be looking to upgrade on a budget to a smarter device.

The firm has already broken ground on a new mobile R&D centre in Wuhan and has even been recruiting ex-Motorola engineers made redundant after Google’s decision to close down the firm’s R&D plant in Nanjing. ®

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