Henry Ford once famously declared his customers could buy a car in any colour they wanted, as long as it was black.
A similar philosophy applied to smartphones and Nokia in the mid-Noughties, with the Finnish giant selling one in every two mobile handsets.
Yet following the iPhone’s release in 2007, the industry fragmented as new companies entered the market.
Ten years ago, nobody in this country had heard of HTC or Huawei, while Alcatel and Apple were still emerging players in the fledgling smartphone sector.
Today, the iPhone is the handset by which all other smartphones are judged. But is it really necessary to buy such a pricey product?
In this article, we consider whether lesser-known brands are genuine rivals to market leaders like Sony and Samsung.
Who are the new smartphone manufacturers?
Several new brands have emerged since Apple debuted the ground-breaking app-driven iPhone:
- Alcatel. Founded in 2006, French firm Alcatel specialises in affordable handsets running older versions of Android (typically Lollipop or Marshmallow). Their products are basic, but generally contain essentials like expandable memory slots and five-inch screens.
- Google. Google entered the smartphone market in 2016 with the Pixel, and its sequel is widely acclaimed as one of the best handsets currently available. Google’s stealthy acquisition of certain Nokia and HTC divisions has helped its cause immeasurably.
- HTC. HTC’s flame burned briefly if brightly, when the Chinese smartphone manufacturer collaborated with Microsoft on Windows phones. After losing its R&D team to Google in a $1.1 billion buyout, HTC’s model range has gradually dwindled.
- Huawei. Like Apple, Chinese brand Huawei often markets three versions of the same handset across different price points. Comparisons with Apple products continue into the spec sheets – the flagship P20 has a 40MP camera and a 6.1-inch OLED HD screen.
Are there any significant differences between mainstream and niche smartphone manufacturers?
Any smartphone on sale in the UK will be suitable for calling, texting and basic web browsing.
Cheaper models lack HD screens and powerful processors, but that’s not unique to budget brands – the recently-relaunched Nokia 3310 openly celebrates its minimalist specifications.
Badge snobs may point to superior build quality among established smartphone manufacturers.
However, they’d do well to remember the fragility of Samsung Galaxy screens, and the unreliability of recent LG handsets – including the troublesome modular G5.
In a recent survey by Which?, 93 per cent of Huawei handsets remained fault-free over a three-year period, and only one in 50 could have been described as broken at any point.
Meanwhile, the Google Pixel has emerged from nowhere to become a genuine iPhone rival, thanks to 128GB of internal storage and a cutting-edge Snapdragon processor.
Since most modern phones are slim plastic rectangles running the Android operating system, there’s surprisingly little to choose between mainstream and niche manufacturers.
You’re better off choosing a new smartphone according to its specifications and performance, rather than allowing brand snobbery to influence your decision.
Image: Philip Wilson