Gartner: Chinese Vendors Will Drive Growth of White-Box Smartphones and Tablets Through 2015

Demand for affordable connected devices, mostly from emerging markets, is continuing to drive strong sales of white-box smartphones and tablets in 2014. Gartner expects the white-box smartphone market to grow 50 per cent, while the white-box tablet market will experience growth of 15.6 per cent (See Table 1). (TZ)

Table 1. Worldwide White-Box Smarpthone and Tablet Sales to End-Users, 2012-2014

(Millions of Units)













Source: Gartner (September 2014)

A typical white-box device is created by a vendor using a turnkey solution based on application processors and reference designs. The device is targeted at affordable price points in segments across the mobile phone and tablet market. White-box devices can be sold through legal channels, or through „gray“ or underground markets.

In today’s blog post, CK Lu, principal research analyst at Gartner, says that Chinese established and emerging vendors will lead the growth of white-box devices as they refocus to meet the demand for reasonably priced devices. In addition, the move to 4G in China and beyond will create new opportunities for Chinese smartphone vendors, starting in late 2014.

Mr Lu said:

Selling smartphones is no longer a privilege limited to global original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). The maturity of the white-box smartphone ecosystem allows other OEMs to launch an Android smartphone from scratch within a four-week period, making China among one of the fastest-growing smartphone markets. White-box vendors can use the turnkey designs to launch white-box smartphones at prices from $50 to $330.

These white-box phones are no longer largely sold via unknown/small brands — the ecosystem today is much more organized. Emerging brands (such as Oppo and Gionee) and established brands (such as Lenovo and TCL) are much more like Samsung and Apple, where they get involved in everything from sourcing to design difference in the use of turnkey chipset solutions.

We also expect the price of 4G smartphones to reach the price of 3G models as of 2013 by the end of 2014, and become mainstream among white-box smartphones in China by the end of 2015.

The white-box tablet market will also continue to grow to reach more diversified types of users, from budget-constrained users to replacement buyers in emerging markets, but the speed of growth will slow down over the next five years. Emerging Asia/Pacific and Greater China are forecast to be the largest consumers of white-box tablets in 2014 (see Figure 1).


Figure 1. White-Box Tablet Shipments by Region Forecast, 2014;pv7979ceb4487af8fa

Source: Gartner (September 2014)

Growing user interest in large-size smartphones, or phablets, will impact white-box tablets, especially at the 7-inch size. We expect white-box vendors will have to alter their portfolio to adopt this market trend, launching tablets at 8-inch screen sizes and larger, or to integrate cellular functions at 7 inches to compete with phablets at 7 inches and smaller.

More information is available in the report “Market Trends: China’s White-Box Ecosystem Evolves to Focus on Android Devices”. The report can be found at

Additional analysis on the outlook for the mobile market will be discussed during Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2014.

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