BKAV, a Vietnamese security software company, launched its first smartphone in June. It has used the “made-in-Vietnam” label as one of the Bphone's biggest selling points.
BKAV's phone assembly factory in Hanoi typically has 100 people working during the day. Another factory that builds parts of the phone -- like the metal unibody, SIM card holder, speaker box and bezel -- has 50 workers. Samsung, which builds nearly a third of its smartphones in Vietnam, employes 100,000 workers in two factories north of Hanoi.
BKAV plans to open a bigger factory in the Hoa Lac Hi-Tech Park in suburban Hanoi, about 30 kilometers from its current factories, “when we get good feedback from the market,” said Vu Thanh Thang, vice president and director of BKAV’s hardware division.
BKAV poured about $20 million, 200 engineers and four years into developing its first smartphone. It designed everything from the motherboard housing the phone’s components -- including a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor -- to the device’s exterior and the software overlaying Google's Android operating system.
The Bphone is put together with a typical assembly line setup -- each person is responsible for one step. Other manufacturers, like Samsung, have workers assemble every part of a phone on their own.
The Bphone, which comes in six variations and costs about $450 to $925, is reminiscent of an Apple iPhone 4 with a bigger screen.
BKAV wants to mimic what Xiaomi has done in China and even what Apple has done in the US -- gradually take over the mobile market by first catering to its home audience.
In the first round of Bphone sales in June, BKAV sold 11,822 devices. By comparison, Xiaomi sold 2.1 million handsets during a 12-hour flash sale in April, and Apple sold 10 million iPhone 6 and 6 Plus units in the first weekend they were on the market in September.