NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- I was recently in Myanmar, conducting my research for offshore investing opportunities in the emerging markets of the world, when I found something unexpected in the middle of a rainstorm.
In the rainy season, Myanmar is a game of musical chairs: You walk around the city, acutely aware of what's lurking, never quite sure when it will arrive ... when the leaden sky suddenly cracks open and dumps on the city. I didn't have an umbrella that morning on Pansodan Street in the heart of old Rangoon. Instead, I ducked into a KMD Electronics store.
Must Read: 12 Stocks Warren Buffett Loves in 2014
I was not expecting what I found -- the Myanmarese version of an Apple Store. Though more Spartan, it was brightly lit. The staff, dressed in khaki pants and pastel polo shirts of various Easter colors, milled around lighted glass displays designed to be individual boutiques -- the store-within-a-store concept that's all the rage among U.S. retailers. Each boutique catered to a particular brand of phone, almost all of them Chinese.
I pulled up to the counter displaying Oppo phones. A salesman named Kyaw (Chaw) gave me a phone to toy with. It was super slim and jet black, with one of the most vibrant displays I've ever seen.
"These are very good quality," Kyaw said.
"How much?" I asked.
"About $100," he told me.
I was tempted to buy it just so I could say I own a Chinese smartphone.
Americans don't see this corner of the global mobile phone market. We're accustomed to certain brands here at home -- big brands like Apple (AAPL) , Samsung (SSNLF) , Nokia (NOK) , HTC, BlackBerry (BBRY) and few others. But across vast stretches of emerging economies -- and especially frontier economies -- low-cost, full-feature Chinese smartphones are grabbing the public's attention and claiming a large share of local markets.
They represent fabulous investment opportunities.