China's Meizu unveils first smartphones since deal with Geely founder

A view shows the logo of Chinese automobile manufacturer Geely at a dealership in Moscow
A view shows the logo of Chinese automobile manufacturer Geely at a dealership in Moscow, Russia, March 23, 2023. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

SHANGHAI, March 30 (Reuters) - China's Meizu on Thursday unveiled its first smartphone products since it was taken over by a venture belonging to Zhejiang Geely Holding's (GEELY.UL) founder, with the firms saying it marked their first step to integrating consumer electronics and travel.

A company run by Geely Chairman Eric Li took a majority stake in Meizu last year, making the Volvo owner the first established carmaker to enter the premium smartphone sector. He later named the company Xingji Meizu, with the brand as its smartphone arm.

At an event in Shanghai on Thursday, Xingji Meizu showed off its new smartphone line comprising of three models priced between 2,999 and 6,299 yuan ($436-$916) and which use the firm's homegrown Android-based operating system FlymeOS.

The company also introduced Flyme Auto, a system it had adapted to be used in cars, while Geely unveiled its Lynk & Co 08 crossover as the first model to use that operating system.

The launches come as Chinese consumers demand more smart technologies in their cars, favouring for example, the ability to use mobile apps from the car's dashboard.

Other tech-auto partnerships in China include Huawei Technologies (HWT.UL), whose Harmony operating system powers Seres cars.

Meizu's new phones hits shelves as China's smartphone sector comes out of one of its worst-ever sales slumps.

In 2022, smartphone shipments fell 14%, and total unit shipments fell below 300 million for the first time in a decade.

Nearly 90% of smartphone sales in China belong to Apple Inc (AAPL.O), Xiaomi Corp (1810.HK), BBK-owned Oppo and Vivo, and Huawei Technologies Co Ltd (HWT.UL) spinoff Honor, according to consultancy Canalys.

Meizu, a two-decade-old Chinese consumer electronics company, rose to prominence early in the past decade as an up-and-coming Chinese Android. However, it was bested by rivals and now holds marginal market share.

(This story has been refiled to fix typographical error in last paragraph)

Reporting by Josh Horwitz, Zhang Yan and Brenda Goh

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