Oppo, one of the top three smartphone vendors in China, unveiled its latest flagship smartphone for the domestic market on Tuesday, slightly ahead of Apple’s latest iPhone launch in California and as it bids to take a greater share of the market for well-equipped but more affordable handsets.

The Oppo Reno 2, priced at 2,999 yuan (US$420) in the domestic Chinese market, has a host of hi-tech features but does not feature 5G support, even though the Chinese company launched a 5G handset for European markets four months ago.

“We are trying to release the most suitable product at the most appropriate time,” Oppo Vice President Brian Shen said in a media briefing in Shanghai on Tuesday.

Oppo smartphones displayed in a shop in Singapore August 8, 2018. (Picture: Edgar Su/Reuters)

Other leading smartphone vendors in China are set to release new phones in September, with Vivo scheduled to release its high-end flagship Nex 3 series with 5G support next week.

Apple CEO Tim Cook took to the stage at the company’s California headquarters on Tuesday to unveil the company’s new iPhones. Apple announced two high-end iPhones – the iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max – with four-figure US dollar price tags, as well as a cheaper iPhone 11. The models replaced the similarly priced iPhone XS, XS Max and XR, respectively.

The US technology giant plans to hold off until at least 2020 before offering an iPhone that can connect to 5G services, according to a previous Bloomberg report.

As the only foreign brand in China’s top five, currently ranked fifth, Apple saw its shipments decline by 6% in the second quarter of 2019, with a market share of 6.7%, according to a report by research agency IDC last month.

Meanwhile, the delayed introduction of a 5G handset by Oppo for the Chinese market is not because of technical reasons but is a strategic play, said Shen, who pointed out the company has spent millions of dollars on 5G research.

The big three Chinese telecom operators, China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom have yet to officially release commercial 5G data plans after they obtained commercial 5G licences earlier this year, but many mainland media reports suggest that 5G data plans will become officially available in China very soon.

Oppo, which competes closely with Huawei and Vivo, has five smartphone series which cover the low-end and the mid-to-high-end market. Reno is a mid-to-high range series that Oppo officially announced in April this year. In May, Oppo’s Reno 5G smartphone became the first commercial 5G smartphone available in European markets.

“In India and Southeast Asia where 5G networks are less developed, Oppo will continue to focus on 4G phones,” said Shen.

India, the world’s second-largest smartphone market after China, saw as many as 37 million smartphones shipped during the second quarter this year – a record and a sizable leap compared to the same period last year, research agency Counterpoint said in a note in July.