Growing Opportunities for New Handset OEMs and White Label Vendors in the US Market

For the first time in many years, the US market is looking for new handset OEM vendors. This is in stark contrast to many years of carriers actively attempting to reduce the number of OEMs and SKUs carried. For the past five years, the US market has been dominated by only five OEMs responsible for up to 90% of handset volumes.  The large portfolios have hefty expenses due to carrying costs, training, care support, and other lifetime management costs. The market remains top heavy–so why the change now?  There are many reasons why carriers are looking for more OEM support:

  • Void left by ZTE creates need for new entry vendors. ZTE was banned from purchasing US components for selling devices to Iran. This ban was later reversed by President Trump, however, the company lost a few months of work and completely missed out on the 1H19 ranging process.  ZTE had owned as high as 14% US market share in 2017. These were important devices sold with large prepaid channels and had hit very competitive prices. It is difficult getting down to ZTE-level pricing and it takes competing OEMs to do it.
  • Larger cost range in the portfolio. Carriers now have devices which range in price from $40 to $1400.  More OEMs are needed to provide this range as no carrier wants to be left without even a niche device a competitor will carry. The price diversity needed to competitively supply hardware within postpaid, prepaid, B2B, online, and national retail increased. At the same time, most OEMs have reduced the number of global variants they are producing to reduce R&D costs and to become more efficient.
  • Carriers do not want to cede more control to open channels. Carriers prefer better-controlling devices lighting up on their networks. Better control means better management for HAC requirements, software and security pushes, and other carrier-specific requirements for devices going through the lab-cycle process. Carriers also save the payment paid to the channel when it lights up a activation on behalf of the carrier.
  • Carriers will want 5G pushed to lower price tiers. Carriers are planning their second half ’19 and early ’20 portfolios now. Carriers will be driving 5G devices into more price points of the portfolio 2020 and beyond—not just the flagship segment. With its extra costs, 5G handsets will be difficult to scale for OEMs and they may plan on strategic and fewer variants. This will have US carriers looking for alternatives.
  • We expect a return of major carriers looking to offer white labels. Cricket is the most recent launching a low-cost Cricket branded smartphone from Hipad. White labeled devices allow carriers to market their own carrier brand on device(s). At the same time, it allows the carrier to bring in an unknown brand who may have no name recognition and would have a difficult time breaking through on their own. White labels allow carriers to work closely in the concepting of the device to get the exact specs and price point desired. An added benefit to carriers is it gives them a window into component costs which will help them negotiate pricing with their suppliers.
  • New vendors allow for exclusivity possibilities. OnePlus in T-Mobile is the latest to hit a major US carrier. T-Mobile announced it will be selling the OnePlus 6T at New vendors can dangle exclusivity offers to US carriers—a rarity in today’s market. There were already 200,000 OnePlus’ activated on T-Mobile’s network, so getting them officially sold through T-Mobile channels was not a surprise. Exclusives are not as important as the once were, but any edge a carrier can have they will take to differentiate.
  • New companies, such as Emblem Solutions, will further drive white label devices. The company, backed by AT&T, will support hardware OEMs launch devices into AT&T US channels. This includes helping with roadmap planning, logistics planning, care, and helping with carrier lab cycles.

Expect more new OEMs and white labels to be selling in the US market in 2019 and 2020.


Jeff has 25+ years experience in technology research, business development, competitive intelligence, and business management. Prior to joining Counterpoint Research, Jeff held various research & product development roles at Microsoft, Nokia, Roth Capital Partners, and Gartner. Jeff is a member of many telecom industry organizations including Colorado Wireless Association,, CommNexus, and is a regular speaker at major telecom industry events. He was a 4x NCAA all-American in tennis and is a 12-time finisher of the Hawaii Ironman World Championships.

Term of Use and Privacy Policy

Counterpoint Technology Market Research Limited


In order to access Counterpoint Technology Market Research Limited (Company or We hereafter) Web sites, you may be asked to complete a registration form. You are required to provide contact information which is used to enhance the user experience and determine whether you are a paid subscriber or not.
Personal Information When you register on we ask you for personal information. We use this information to provide you with the best advice and highest-quality service as well as with offers that we think are relevant to you. We may also contact you regarding a Web site problem or other customer service-related issues. We do not sell, share or rent personal information about you collected on Company Web sites.

How to unsubscribe and Termination

You may request to terminate your account or unsubscribe to any email subscriptions or mailing lists at any time. In accessing and using this Website, User agrees to comply with all applicable laws and agrees not to take any action that would compromise the security or viability of this Website. The Company may terminate User’s access to this Website at any time for any reason. The terms hereunder regarding Accuracy of Information and Third Party Rights shall survive termination.

Website Content and Copyright

This Website is the property of Counterpoint and is protected by international copyright law and conventions. We grant users the right to access and use the Website, so long as such use is for internal information purposes, and User does not alter, copy, disseminate, redistribute or republish any content or feature of this Website. User acknowledges that access to and use of this Website is subject to these TERMS OF USE and any expanded access or use must be approved in writing by the Company.
– Passwords are for user’s individual use
– Passwords may not be shared with others
– Users may not store documents in shared folders.
– Users may not redistribute documents to non-users unless otherwise stated in their contract terms.

Changes or Updates to the Website

The Company reserves the right to change, update or discontinue any aspect of this Website at any time without notice. Your continued use of the Website after any such change constitutes your agreement to these TERMS OF USE, as modified.
Accuracy of Information: While the information contained on this Website has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, We disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of such information. User assumes sole responsibility for the use it makes of this Website to achieve his/her intended results.

Third Party Links: This Website may contain links to other third party websites, which are provided as additional resources for the convenience of Users. We do not endorse, sponsor or accept any responsibility for these third party websites, User agrees to direct any concerns relating to these third party websites to the relevant website administrator.

Cookies and Tracking

We may monitor how you use our Web sites. It is used solely for purposes of enabling us to provide you with a personalized Web site experience.
This data may also be used in the aggregate, to identify appropriate product offerings and subscription plans.
Cookies may be set in order to identify you and determine your access privileges. Cookies are simply identifiers. You have the ability to delete cookie files from your hard disk drive.