Who is BBK Electronics? We discover the reality behind OnePlus, OPPO, Vivo, Realme and iQOO

bbk electronics

The story that gravitates around the entity that responds to the name of BBK Electronics always proves rather controversial. You may have never heard of it concretely and the strange thing is that it is considered in all respects the third smartphone manufacturer in the world. It is paradoxical that there is no direct BBK telephone, but the reason is easy to say: it does not operate directly. His efforts in the smartphone field are, in fact, delegated to other specific brands: OnePlus, OPPO e Vivo primarily, Realme ed iQOO in secundis. Why do I use the conditional? Now I'll explain it.

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Is BBK Electronics the company that controls OnePlus, OPPO and Vivo? Let's find out what the truth is

Let's retrace the history of BBK

You may have never heard of BBK and there is a reason for this choice, but let's take a step back first. The brand BBK Electronics Industrial Group born from the mind of Duan Yongping, elusive 59-year-old businessman born in Nanchang, whose assets are expected to amount to about $ 1.5 billion, according to Hurun China Rich List of 2018. Like all the characters of this caliber, even Duan is not exempt from the "oddities" typical of the most daring investors. Just think that in 2006 he came to pay the beauty of 620.100 dollars to be able to have lunch with the iconic Warren Buffett and talk about business.

duan yongping

Graduated in electronic engineering and econometrics, he has a background as a teacher, as a worker in a state-owned vacuum tube factory but above all as CEO of Subor Electronics. A company that made itself known, making itself known for the creation of clones of Nintendo consoles. The production also included various equipment in the videogame field, as well as machines dedicated to education. Disputes aside, Duan leads Subor from being a heavily indebted company to one capable of capitalizing in 1995 something like 1 billion yuan, equal to 126 million euros. This thanks to very low prices (from 15 to 40 € for a console) and the lack of competition, even going so far as to have superstar Jackie Chan as sponsor.

This experience ended on August 28th 1995 is founded Bubugao, a company we now know how BBK Electronics. The company's beginnings include various electronics sectors, such as the creation of CDs, MP3 players, DVD systems and household appliances. But already in 2000 BBK began to make a name for itself in the telephone field, becoming one of the main manufacturers in China, clashing with sacred beasts such as Nokia and Motorola.

From audio / video to telephony: the birth of OPPO and Vivo

BBK Electronics hasn't always done very well, on the contrary. In the mid-2000s there was a serious hint of failure, with fierce competition from Huawei and Coolpad, capable of selling devices around 1000 yuan (about € 120). At this point it was decided to divide BBK into three branches. The first, devoted to educational electronics, was entrusted to Huang Yihe. The second, VCD and DVD players, to Chen Mingyong. For the third, the turning point comes in 2004, when with the pupil Tony Chen is founded OPPO.


Initially the company was not the one we know today, having spent the first years of life dedicating itself to audio and video players under the OPPO Digital division. And also with excellent products well reviewed by the interested audience, as in the case ofHA-1 amplifier or delle PM-3 headphones. In 2008 there was a shy entry into telephony with the launch of the Smile Phone, a feature phone with a nice back cover.

The next step comes in 2009, when another protégé called Shen Wei founds what was the first true parent brand of telephony: Vivo. Right from the start the intent with this brand was to jump into the world of smartphones, and then be followed in 2011 by OPPO.

"Making phones was not my way. But I estimated that we could have done well in this market."

Telephony, therefore, was not exactly the world chosen by Duan Yongping, but rather a choice dictated by his entrepreneurial vision. The fact is that OPPO and Vivo obtain considerable numbers in Asia, trying to follow the model Apple in terms of aesthetics and market approach. Duan himself has repeatedly expressed his appreciation for Cupertino.

"Apple is an extraordinary company. It is a model to learn from. I have met Tim Cook on several occasions. He may not know me, but we chatted a bit, I like him very much. But they didn't know how to beat us in China because they too have flaws. Sometimes they are perhaps too stubborn. They have done a lot of fantastic things, like their operating system, but we outperform them in other areas. ”

Initially it is clear that the public's attention was entirely on the iPhone ecosystem, with a presentation that in 2007 bewitched the whole world. In parallel, then, there was still a BlackBerry that was concerned with meeting the needs of a more corporate target. But in the long run the numbers proved BBK's efforts right: thanks to the joint work of OPPO and Vivo, in the 2016 has managed to place itself in third place on the market, with more than 147 million smartphones sold. In contrast, Huawei ended the fiscal year with "only" 76.6 million, not to mention Apple's 44.9 million or Xiaomi's 41.5 million.


The reasons for this success are manifold. First of all, the Duan company has gained a great loyalty in the emerging markets, where Apple's prices cannot compete. In addition, the massive presence of young graduates has helped to adopt strategies that can succeed among millennials. Not to mention the use of celebrities on a large scale for marketing. To help sales was also the choice to prepare many physical stores around Asia, with as widespread a distribution as possible. While working side by side, OPPO and Vivo live the strategy of "enemies at home", competing in the same market segments.

The other "trick" was diversify products, launching very premium and expensive flagships capable of attracting customer attention. At this point the mid-range and low-cost range takes over, which OPPO and Vivo have made extensive use of, managing to sell them well thanks to the strong appeal acquired through the aforementioned top of the range. At some point in its history, BBK Electronics decided to further diversify, supporting the creation of further realities.

The birth of OnePlus, Realme and iQOO: long life to subsidiaries


Meanwhile OPPO, together with Vivo, conquers Asia with a mainstream perspective, there are those who have a more intimate, almost artisan vision inside. In 2013 the then vice-president of OPPO Electronics decided to leave the company and start up on your own: exactly, I'm talking about Pete Lau and the birth of OnePlus. They were different years from today, years when telephony was mostly dominated by "western" brands such as Samsung, Apple, LG and Motorola. The Chinese world was still tied to its borders and there was still little talk of Xiaomi and Huawei. OnePlus, a brand born in China but looking to the West, fits into this panorama. The marketing strategy was soon said: the small company against the giants of the sector. Excellent specifications, low prices, 0 advertising, online sales only and a very young target, attentive to the latest technologies. A goal very different from that of OPPO and Vivo, aimed at a more classic user. From then on, we all know the history of OnePlus, up to today with a much more deeply rooted global presence and, in some ways, far from that of the beginning.

oneplus pete lau carl pei


Meanwhile, in the 2018 always from OPPO another rib comes off under the name of Realme, led by Sky Li who, like Pete Lau, is a former OPPO vice-president. As happened between Xiaomi and Redmi, it was an existing entity: although much less famous than Redmi, RealMe was also a OPPO phone family from 2010. Evidently she didn't have much luck, being abandoned and then "resurrecting" 8 years later as a brand in her own right. Realme immediately managed to impose itself with a certain impetuosity in the panorama. Sales are very positive and serve as the basis for an ecosystem that, after only 2 years, counts on the list wearables, headphones, various accessories and also one Smart TV. And it is almost paradoxical, if you think that there are no OPPO-branded TVs.

realme sky li


We arrive at the 2019 e at birth di iQOO. Vivo also needed a counterparty directed not to a mainstream audience, but to a more niche geek and attentive to hardware. And in fact all the models seen so far, some more, some less, bring with them large batteries with very fast recharges, large cuts of memories and functionalities aimed at gaming.

I live iqoo

You will understand for yourself that, with such a wide firepower, the overall commercial results are more than considerable. As said at the beginning of the article, you may not know BBK, but the sales numbers seem to tell another story. OPPO and Vivo take care of satisfying a more mainstream audience, with OPPO also venturing into Europe. OnePlus is the brand with the most presence in the West, having excellent numbers also in India. Realme is doing very well both in Asia and slowly also in Europe, while iQOO is most popular in India and China. On a global scale, the data of Counterpoint Research show how BBK ended 2019 in front of a giant like Huawei / Honor, as well as Apple and Xiaomi. Only Samsung has managed to do better, but the forecasts give BBK as papabile first place within a short time.

global smartphone sales

Anyone remember imoo?

In the wake of the educational products of the 90s, BBK attempted to bring this topic to smartphones. So it was born imoo, a project that would seem to be shipwrecked after the launch of the solo imoo C1. The smartphone itself was nothing phantasmagoric, but the concept was at least interesting. The company integrated a series of features dedicated to students into the software, complete with a dedicated button for scan math problems or make translations. But also the possibility of synchronization of lessons, consult teachers and a parental control for parents.

Imoo M1000 render

Everyone is in BBK Electronics, but nobody wants to be: what is going on?

Let's start by saying that, as you may have understood, Duan Yongping is not what we could call one smartphone enthusiast. Given his entrepreneurial figure, somewhat in the wake of Alibaba's most famous Jack Ma, he has always preferred to remain on the sidelines. It is no coincidence that there are not many of his statements online, preferring to keep his life out of media attention. He does not even live in China, near his companies, but in California with his family. He almost laughs knowing that, as he said, he learns the latest news of OPPO and Vivo from the internet, so as not to disturb their work.

Although Duan himself has affirmed this connection between the companies at stake, it has been a long time since the brands involved deny being owned by BBK. In recent years, some confusion has arisen: on the one hand, the management OPPO, Vivo and OnePlus which denies the link, on the other, numerous tests that contradict them. To revive the flame of controversy were the recent statements by Carl Pei, from which my desire to create this article was born. That to date there is something anomalous from this point of view is evident since the official website: Is it possible that such a huge company, with factories on 10 hectares of land and more than 17.000 employees, has such a bare and information-free web page? Not to mention the official references of the link between OPPO and BBK They have been deleted and the same thing happened with Vivo: before BBK was mentioned on their site, not anymore now.

It remains to be understood why there is all this desire to untie from the name BBK. The simplest and perhaps plausible hypothesis to conceive is that brands want give the public an independent image, not being too connected to each other. Why prefer an OPPO smartphone to one from Vivo, OnePlus or Realme, if in the end they all belong to the same manufacturer? Not to mention that usually the average user tends to like individual realities more, perceived as closer to himself, compared to large and aseptic multinational companies.

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