Chinese smartphone brand Oppo is making a renewed push into the European market through a partnership with telecommunications giant Vodafone at a time when its bigger rival Huawei Technologies has seen slumping sales in the region amid a US trade ban and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Vodafone will distribute Oppo products across its retail channels in Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Turkey and the Netherlands effective May this year, Oppo said in a statement on Monday.

The logo of British mobile phone giant Vodafone is seen on a retail shop in central London. (Picture: AFP)

The cooperation with Vodafone signals Oppo’s global ambitions with a strategy to promote the brand in mature overseas markets at a time when Huawei is facing headwinds selling internationally after being put on a US trade blacklist that prohibits it from using Google mobile services. Huawei’s development could be impeded after the US Department of Commerce announced last Friday it would further restrict the ability of Huawei to develop semiconductors using American technologies.

Oppo now accounts for 2% of the European market after experiencing 10-fold growth in the first quarter amid countrywide lockdowns imposed to limit the spread of the pandemic, according to the research firm Canalys. The growth spurt saw Oppo jump to fifth spot in the region, behind fourth-place Xiaomi with 14% and second-place Huawei with 21% market.

Global smartphone shipments fell 13% in the first quarter to 272 million units due to the impact of Covid-19, according to Canalys.

“Oppo is confident that our industry-leading products and technologies will enable Vodafone to win new opportunities in the 5G era,” Oppo vice-president Alen Wu said in the statement.

Oppo, headquartered in Dongguan, Guangdong, has previously offered smartphones in the mid to low price range with entertaining marketing strategies targeting young people in the country’s lower-tier cities. The launch of its new flagship Find X2 series of phones earlier this year showed it has ambitions to expand its overseas presence from developing markets in Asia to Europe where smartphone users are more willing to shell out for premium models.

Oppo said that since September more than half its smartphone shipments have been outside mainland China, and the company expects its proportion of overseas sales will increase with its push into new markets.

However, in their home market Oppo, Xiaomi and Vivo have faced stiffer competition after Huawei doubled down on efforts to expand domestic sales to compensate for the impact of the US blacklist that curbed its efforts to woo overseas buyers.