Circle your calendars for March 28. That's when investors will start to talk about the biggest growth opportunity for smartphones in the months and years ahead.
On that day, China Unicom (NYSE: CHU), China Telecom (NYSE: CHA) and China Mobile (NYSE: CHL) plan to roll out a new phone to counter the growing strength that Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) are showing in the market. These wireless carriers don't want to become beholden to these tech giants, and have expressed a desire to make sure the market for phones remains truly competitive.
Their Trojan Horse: Nokia (NYSE: NOK) and its new line of Lumia smartphones.
Within a few days of that launch, we'll have a clearer read on whether these mobile phone titans (which collectively sport a $300 billion market value) can convince consumers to make a switch.
For many Chinese consumers, the choice of a Nokia phone may be a no-brainer. The company aims to deliver a range of phones that are less expensive than the iPhone, or pack in more features for the same price. At a recent investment conference, Nokia's CFO, Timo Ihamuotila, noted that an unsubsidized iPhone retails for roughly $775, roughly $200 more than for what Nokia's equivalent version of the Lumia phone retails ($580). The Lumia 710, for example, can be sold -- at a nice profit -- for less than $400. That's the price point likely to best be able to expand the Chinese market.
That market is growing so quickly, it is expected to be larger than the U.S. market by the end of this year.