high-end smartphones at a fraction of the cost of Apple's $ 999 iPhone X or Samsung's $ 1,000 Note 9. A mobile phone for mobile gamers. A colorful device with a physical keyboard.
These are the phones that appeared at the IFA for Consumer Electronics, which is typically known for appliances, televisions, and other devices. This year some handset makers used the big tech conference in Berlin to unveil their latest devices and make a leap to Apple, which will launch its next iPhone on September 12th.
This week, Sony introduced its flagship Xperia XZ3. ZTE, back from (near) death after lifting a US ban, released the Axon 9 Pro. Huawei released new colors for its P20 Pro, revealing the Lite version of its Mate 20 handset (before even introducing the higher-end device). The Chinese company's Honor business has launched its new Magic 2 phone and announced the availability of its Honor Play gaming phone in Europe. LG and HTC showed new mid-range devices, the LG G7 One and G7 Fit, and the HTC U1
2 Life, and Blackberry revealed the Key2 LE, a colorful and cheaper version of its flagship Key2.
Phew!  Now: Watch this:
ZTE Axon Pro 9 has a screen-notch, no headphones …
The whole range of devices presented at IFA reminds us that the smartphone world is not just about Apple and Samsung. There are plenty of opportunities – often at a lower cost – even if it does not always look that way in the US. But there is a reason why these phones make their debut in Berlin. If you live in the US, you probably will not find many of them.
This is because the top dogs are still over the crowd, despite fiercer competition between different smartphone makers.
"The US market is very distorted compared to Apple and Samsung," said GlobalData analyst Avi Greengart. "There are not as many options in the US as elsewhere, but the products from Apple and Samsung are really good."
This dynamic means you will miss some unique alternatives. Even if you do not care about getting those phones in the US, you might want to do that.
Unless you are Apple or Samsung, the US market was a slugfest. In the second quarter, 40 percent of Apple's smartphone shipments came from, 25 percent came from Samsung, according to Counterpoint Research. LG is 16 percent behind Motorola, Motorola with 6 percent and "other" with 13 percent.
That does not mean that Huawei and other companies do not want to sell their phones in the US. Huawei tried to sign a contract with AT & T earlier this year just to drop it at the last minute over political pressure from the US government. A similar deal with Verizon also fell apart, and Best Buy stopped selling Huawei devices earlier this year.
It's the complete opposite outside the US. In the second quarter, Huawei surpassed Apple, according to Canal and several other research companies, to become the world's second largest smartphone provider. It was mainly supported by strong sales in China, where it is the number one.
"The [US] is difficult because of political issues," said Richard Yu, the CEO of Huawei Consumer Business Group, on Friday at a roundtable with journalists. "If [you’re] does not [partnered] with a carrier, you can not sell over 95 [percent]98 percent of the flagship phones sold from the carrier channel."
Fellow Chinese phone maker ZTE made progress in the Before the US government banned the US government American companies selling products or services to ZTE for the next seven years as a penalty for selling equipment to Iran and North Korea. ZTE discontinued its operations in May and resumed operations when President Donald Trump intervened to help create a multi-billion dollar solution.
Now that the ban has been lifted, ZTE has resumed its R & D and marketing activities. The company's flagship Axon 9 Pro will not be launched in the US, but ZTE plans to launch a phone in the country shortly, said Jeff Yee, vice president of product marketing and strategy for ZTE Mobile Devices. This device will not be as high quality as the Axon 9 Pro, he said, reflecting the company's reputation in the US.
"We have never left the US, but we need to reassess our plans," Yee said in an interview at IFA on Thursday. "We need to regain consumer confidence, but surely the US has priority."
Both Huawei's and ZTE's situation is the most extreme example of how difficult it is for a handset manufacturer to enter the US market. But the US is not the only market in the world, which is why so many IFA companies have come to impress.
To make that impressive, some went with high-end, eye-catching specifications and others attempted to incorporate reasonable components that still hold low prices:
The Sony Xperia XZ3 is a "Supersize, Superpowered, Superprice Handset" as CNET's Jessica Dolcourt puts it. It features a 6-inch screen, a 19-megapixel camera setup (single lens, like the Galaxy S9), impregnation, wireless charging and Qualcomm's beefy Snapdragon 845 chipset. The Xperia XZ3 will sell for $ 900 in the US with Amazon and Best Buy when it goes on sale on October 17. This price tag will be around £ 690 and AU $ 1,230.
The BlackBerry Key2 LE Meanwhile, "is a lighter, lighter, and cheaper version of BlackBerry's flagship device, which sees the phone maker shaking off its more reputable and reasonable reputation and embracing color," as CNET Katie Collins remarked. The Key2 LE comes in blue-gray slate, a golden champagne tone and a strong shade of red. It will be available around the end of September in the US, UK, Canada, and other countries, starting at 399, 399, or 349 for the 32GB variant. Blackberry declined to say whether the phone is sold in carrier stores in the US or only direct retailers like Best Buy.
LG G7 One, a variant of the high-end G7 ThinQ flagship earlier this year, is a mainstream Android One phone that offers non-Google Pixel users a pure Android experience. The software was originally designed to work on cheaper phones with entry-level specifications, but moves in midrange phones like the G7 One.
LG also unveiled its G7 Fit, a variant of the G7 One with lower specifications and lower prices. The company has not yet specified detailed prices or availabilities, except that the pricing will be "exceptional". It plans to launch both phones in the US, but its plans may change.
ZTE Waterproof, wireless charging, Axon 9 Pro wears a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor and has a 6.21-inch, 1080p AMOLED display. The display has its own video processing chip, a feature that ZTE calls "Axon Vision." "The technology not only increases the color contrast of a video, but also increases the frame rate for smoother images," said Lynn La of CNET. The phone will cost 649 euros, which can be converted to about 760, 590 or 1040 AU $. It will not be available in the US.
The HTC U12 Life features a large 6-inch display, two portrait mode reversing cameras, expandable memory, and a rare headphone jack. It will sell in Europe for 349 euros or £ 299 (the equivalent of about $ 390), but not in the US or Australia. "Apart from the pixel-like backing, the U12 Life has some pretty compelling features for a phone of its pretty reasonable price," said Dolcourt of CNET.
Huawei launched his withdrawn lite version of his Mate 20 phone before the high-value sibling is actually released. The Mate 20 Lite will be on sale in the UK in early October for £ 379 ($ 493). Availability in the US and Australia is not yet known. The device packs a 2,340 x 1,080-pixel 6.3-inch display; 20 megapixel rearview camera paired with a secondary 2 megapixel camera for capturing depth information for portraiture and a 24 megapixel front camera with a second 2 megapixel depth camera
Huawei Honor Play gaming mobile phone Launched in China in June and sold in more Asian countries in early August, it will now reach Europe for € 329 or € 279. The mobile phone targeted at mobile gamers includes a feature called GPU Turbo, which aims to make the device faster and more energy efficient. Its 4D haptic "Smart Shock" creates realistic vibrations when firing a virtual weapon.
Many of the features of these devices are included in cell phones from Apple and Samsung. But some offer things you can not get anywhere else, such as a focus on mobile gaming or physical keyboards. With the exception of Sony phones, the biggest advantage is the relatively high set of specifications for a lower price.
"As the smartphone ecosystem matures, it's not enough to offer only premium and mid-range phones," said Ha Jeung-uk, senior vice president and business unit leader for LG's mobile business, in a press release. "There is a growing demand for models in between."
While some of these phones come to the US, they are likely to be sold directly to consumers online or sold in retail stores like Best Buy. But with a vast majority of consumers still buying their cell phones directly from a wireless service provider, that means they are likely to fall under the radar.
"Think about what consumers have missed [US]," said IDC analyst Ramon Llamas. In part, it is "more choice at the mid and lower end of the price spectrum [and] high-end smartphones that are masked with a median price."
The IFA Phonemakers are worth keeping an eye on, unless you want to divert a small fortune for the latest from Apple or Samsung.
CNET's Katie Collins contributed to this report.
IFA 2018: The Biggest Announcements of Summer's Biggest Tech Show
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