Google and Samsung dominate the conversation around Android (for obvious reasons), but dozens of players from all over the world contribute to the broader Android ecosystem. Chinese phone manufacturers like Xiaomi, OPPO, and Vivo are increasingly focusing on western markets, and Amazfit and Mobvoi are doing all the right things on the wearable front.
In short, there are many exciting developments in the Android ecosystem right now, and these are the brands that you should pay more attention to this year.
OnePlus, OPPO, and Vivo
The BBK triumvirate of OnePlus, OPPO, and Vivo had a good 2021, and they're looking to continue their strong showing. OPPO kicked things off in style with the Find N, a creaseless foldable that gives us an early look at what's possible in this category in the coming years.
OPPO and Vivo dominated sales in China last year, but they also did well in global markets — particularly in the west. Both brands tend to focus on a vast retail distribution network to drive sales — much like Samsung — and they've managed to significantly increase their market share in regions like the UK, France, and Germany following Huawei's exit.
OPPO has a lot of exciting products in the works. The Find X5 is slated to debut sometime at the end of Q1, possibly powered by the manufacturer's first custom chipset. It is also likely to offer decent camera gains, with OPPO making a lot of positive strides in that area. Then there's the mid-range Reno series that has delivered some of the most exciting phones in this category over the last 18 months — it forms the basis for OnePlus Nord.
Vivo, for its part, is betting big on the mid-range segment. The color-changing V23 series is now official in India, and it should be making its way to other markets in the coming weeks. Vivo's high-end X series phones don't get as much attention, but the Chinese brand is doing a lot of interesting things around video recording, with the X70 series featuring a third-gen gimbal camera system and Vivo's custom imaging module.
I predict Vivo and OPPO will continue their dominance in China while gaining decent market share globally. The main hurdle for these two brands in the past has been software, but ColorOS 12 is one of the most refined interfaces around, and Vivo's Funtouch OS has been transformed over the course of 2021.
As for OnePlus, the manufacturer's future as an OPPO sub-brand means it has pivoted heavily to the Nord series — particularly with the Nord N portfolio in North America. OnePlus managed to sell 10 million phones for the first time in a calendar year in 2021, and that's on the back of strong sales in the entry-level and budget segments.
It is still rolling out flagship devices — the OnePlus 10 Pro has already been announced officially — but the focus for OnePlus this year will be to make further headway in North America with the Nord series. And with ColorOS now being used as the default software on its phones, it has lost what differentiation it had with OxygenOS, and is now primarily a budget player.
With Vivo and OPPO unwilling to enter North America, OnePlus is the default vessel for BBK in the region, and we're seeing just what that looks like with the Nord N series — made up of regurgitated entry-level OPPO phones.
Xiaomi had a stellar year in 2021, with the Chinese manufacturer overtaking Samsung as the world's largest phone brand for a few months. The rise in sales figures was mostly down to the budget models in the Redmi Note series, but Xiaomi's focus on the mid-range with the Mi 11 Lite, Xiaomi 11T, and the multitude of rebranded POCO phones has worked to its advantage. The Mi 11 series also fared well against the best Android phones thanks to the Mi 11 Ultra and its ridiculous cameras.
For 2022, Xiaomi aims to continue that momentum. It is doubling down in key regions like India — already releasing mid-rangers like the Xiaomi 11i with 120W fast charging — and it is consolidating its position in western markets. Like its BBK rivals, Xiaomi was a big beneficiary of Huawei's decline, and it is now seeking to extend its advantage.
The Redmi Note 11 series should go a long way in furthering Xiaomi's goal this year, and with the Xiaomi 12 series slated to debut globally by the end of Q1 — around the same time as the Galaxy S22 — Xiaomi is aiming to deliver on several fronts.
There's also the fact that Xiaomi sells a lot of products that aren't phones, including TVs, security cameras, fitness bands, smartwatches, Android TV streaming boxes, and gaming monitors, and it is launching most of these ecosystem products outside China.
Honor is now a standalone entity — having distanced itself from Huawei — and while the brand made some initial headway in its home market last year, it wasn't able to sustain that momentum. For 2022, Honor will have to show that it can stand on its own — particularly against its Chinese rivals.
The best way to do this would be with a strong portfolio of devices, and Honor is gearing up for a busy launch window. It is set to release its first foldable phone, with the teasers indicating a design similar to that of the Galaxy Z Fold 3. In its heyday, Honor's budget phones drove a lot of sales for the brand, and I want to see what it has to offer in this category now that Xiaomi and Realme rule the roost.
Nothing generated a lot of excitement ahead of the launch of its ear (1) wireless earbuds, and the brand is using that as the starting point for its broader ambitions. Carl Pei has mentioned that Nothing will create a series of ecosystem products, and while he hasn't confirmed it publicly, a phone is definitely on the cards.
There's little in the way of information regarding Nothing's first phone, but I've heard that a launch is on the cards for the latter half of 2022. This is obviously very interesting given Pei's history at OnePlus, and we'll have to wait and see if he can do something similar at Nothing. Following OnePlus's decision to use ColorOS as the software on its phones, there's a distinct lack of options for Android enthusiasts looking for a high-end phone with clean software, and Nothing could fill that void if it plays its cards right.
I'll have much more to share on this in the coming months, but one thing's for certain: Nothing is going to have a very interesting 2022.
Amazfit is now the world's third-largest wearable manufacturer, and that title is well-deserved. The brand went from strength to strength in 2021 on the back of value-focused smartwatches, and it needs to do the same this year it if wants to hold on to that position.
Amazfit's standout product is its $50 fitness band, but the GTR 3 and GTS 3 smartwatches have fared very well following their introduction in Q3 2021. A big part of that was down to the software, with Amazfit refining its software by some degree.
I'd like Amazfit to release a Wear OS smartwatch, but that is mostly wishful thinking on my part. What's more likely is that Amazfit will continue to roll out new models in its value-focused smartwatch series, turning its attention to the lucrative wireless earbuds category instead.
2022 is going to be an exciting year for Android
Between Android 12 making its way to more devices and flagship phones slated to debut in the coming months, there's a lot of excitement in the Android ecosystem for 2022. I'm looking forward to seeing what Nothing comes up with this year, what Xiaomi does in the budget segment, and what's in store for foldables.
Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor overseeing Asia at Android Central. He leads the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, contributing to reviews, features, and buying guides. He also writes about storage servers, audio products, and the semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.
I really feel like companies have run out of ideas. Probably the most interesting thing happening right now is that we're getting different form factors with foldables. But what else? Fast charging? Not a big deal. What about new or improved biometrics? What about truly better battery life similar to the iPhone 13 Pro Max? What about ambient wireless charging (or whatever that's called)?
What do you mean? I am sure they have a lot of ideas still! They can remove the headphone jack & SD cards from every single device, stop including chargers, and much more! They are clever, they will come up with more good stuff to cut and call them IDEAS.
Lmaoooo. Too true.
One person's Idea is another person's cost savings.
Samsung's ambient wireless charging works for a remote control, not a phone. A remote can keep going for years on a couple AAA batteries, so they don't need much recharging per day to work.
But, it is a nice first toe dip into the future, where we're charging things with the radio waves the same things are emitting.
Also, looking at Samsung innovation vs Apple innovation. I'd take my Flip3 any day of the week over "better battery" as something ground breaking.
Fast Charging is a game charger, provided its done right. Who hasn't been caught out with a dead phone at the worst time? Really hoping the 45w actually works on the S22 series, unlike the S20 Ultra/Note 10 Plus where it throttled so much it was just a marketing device. Agreed on the iPhone 13 Pro Max (awful name). We've been asking for slightly thicker phones for years so they can include a larger battery.
these brands are great for those who enjoy preinstalled china spyware baked right in
i wouldn't use any of them if they were free
This is a true story, I got a comment deleted on a fairly well known "American" tech site a couple weeks ago for literally writing: There are poor people living in rural China. So yeah, China's tech influence is a problem on so many levels. Time to consider returning the favour of the great firewall? Time to cut all the chords going in our direction?
As apposed to preinstalled American spyware? You know Android is Google right? There's no evidence for what you say, only sinophobia.
It's the software that puts me off most brands that aren't Samsung or Google. I've never owned a OnePlus and was excited about the OnePlus 9, but ColorOS just looks awful. I thought we'd moved on from the TouchWiz days. OneUI is a bit garish by comparison but it's very well built.
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