Asia's Silicon Valley redefines 'Made in China' phones for the world

Joel Guinto, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 19 2017 06:27 AM

An unofficial concept store in Shenzhen sells phones from rival brands Apple and Huawei. Joel Guinto, ABS-CBN News

SHENZHEN, China - A motley of smartphone logos light up an entire street lined with electronics shops one balmy afternoon, another day in Asia's Silicon Valley, which continues to thrive notwithstanding what the West sees as heavy state controls on the internet. 

In the last three decades, this port city was transformed from farmlands to a major research and manufacturing hub for consumer electronics, hosting regional hubs of Chinese giants Huawei, Alibaba and Tencent. 

At Huawei's service center in the downtown area, there's a steady stream of clients who cling to the promise of swift one-hour service. People from all over the mainland come to Shenzhen to score bargains, with factories located no more than an hour's drive away. 

"We are working hard in this town," Clement Wong, director of product marketing at Huawei consumer business group, told reporters. "We call Shenzhen China's Silicon Valley." 

Huawei maintains a two-square kilometer campus here, where a man-made lake is home to black swans that its founder, Ren Zhengfei, imported from New Zealand to remind employees of the need to innovate. 

Some buildings also have design inspiration from the Tang Dynasty, in a nod to the company's goal to lead the market. Huawei overtook Apple for the first time in June and July to become the world's second LARGEST-SELLING smartphone brand next only to Samsung, according to industry tracker Counterpoint. 

Smartphone shops abound in downtown Shenzhen, home to China's electronics and e-commerce giants. Joel Guinto, ABS-CBN News

Huawei is leading the barrage of Chinese-made phones that offer features comparable to Apple's iPhone and Samsung's Galaxy, but at considerably lower price points, and at the same time, redefining perceptions on Chinese-made electronics. 

Buildings and sidestreets in Futian district house rows upon rows of unofficial Huawei, Oppo, Vivo and Xiaomi stores. Startup One Plus, which built its brand around word of mouth on the web, is also headquartered in this city. 

Shenzhen is also a showcase of life inside the "Great Firewall of China." Anything from convenience store purchases to bike rentals can be paid for using a built-in electronic wallet on WeChat, a messaging app that has developed into a social media and e-commerce suite, where Google, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are unavailable. 

WeChat's electronic wallet is used for payment at a convenience store in Shenzhen, China. Joel Guinto, ABS-CBN News