It’s Not Rebranded: Why Local Phones Aren’t Simply Rebrands

It’s Not Rebranded: Why Local Phones Aren’t Simply Rebrands

Cherry Mobile Ultra 08

We give you the lowdown on how local brands choose their phones

Whenever we talk about local brands and the phones they offer to the Philippine market, it’s almost always guaranteed that someone would chime in and say “rebranded lang yan mga yan (those phones are just rebranded!)”. We all know that no local smartphone (or featurephone for that matter) is made in the Philippines – as much as we’d like the local manufacturing sector to actually start making devices here, the way things are currently it’s more efficient to source everything out to China. That includes both manufacturing and design of products. So how exactly do local players get their smartphones?


Well, it all begins with an ODM partner. ODM means original design manufacturer. An ODM company is the one who actually designs and creates smartphones for local companies, with large majority of them being based in China. ODM companies have actually existed for a while now, and makes anything from smartphones, TVs, and various other electronic devices. Phone manufacturer HTC actually started out as an ODM, creating phones for HP and Palm. Nowadays ODMs partner with several brands and offer their original designs to them in the markets that they operate in. The way brands choose a smartphone is more involved and complex than just putting their logo on the back of a phone.

According to one of the ODMs we talked to, they conduct local research of the markets that their partners (aka local brands) reside in before they design a new device. During this design period, their local partners are continuously consulted, because they would be the ones to actually carry their design in the respective markets that they are in, though this actually varies from one ODM to another. Once a general design is finished, each local partner has the option to actually tweak the design to their needs internally (the general look of the design does not change though), either increasing or decreasing the hardware specifications inside it, depending what the requirements are in their particular market. Theoretically, each local partner can totally alter the innards of a smartphone (under a few, logical constraints) though for the most part, most only slightly modify it to fit the needs of their market since the cost of manufacturing the phone goes up if they go too far in their modification. Case in point: the Micromax Canvas Knight and the MyPhone Infinity. While both devices have the same general design and specs, they have different storage capacities that was probably dictated by their respective markets. It’s also important to note that companies like Micromax are not ODMs – they are local partners of Tinno, which is the ODM of MyPhone here in the PH.


Starmobile President, Micheal Chen, says that they still refine some of the designs from ODMs, which is more involved than simply putting in their logo, which sometimes results in a unique product for our market. “There are also mainstream products from ODMs which we still do redefine and optimize specs by camera, LCD, touch panel, battery, RAM+ROM, etc,” he says. “We also re-examine other components used on the product before finalizing. The result of such efforts is a very unique product from the mainstream—such as the case for the original ENGAGE 7TV,” he adds.

While ODMs make a general design for multiple local partners, there are cases where they are called on to make a design that’s destined for just one company. This usually happens with feature phones, an area which local brands still have a substantial market in.

The whole process of choosing a new smartphone to offer to the PH market is a relatively long and involved process. While it’s tempting to look at the offerings of Micromax and other brands overseas and compare the designs to local devices and scream “rebranded!”, the truth is a bit more complicated than that.

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