Huawei stays strong in China as Apple tumbles and market shrinks

Huawei stays strong in China as Apple tumbles and market shrinks
The Chinese smartphone market has been steadily declining since the second quarter of 2017. Fresh market data from Canalys shows that the final quarter of 2019 was no different, but Huawei simply won’t stop growing.

Huawei sold almost 40% of all smartphones


Around 85.3 million smartphones were shipped in China between October and December, and Huawei reportedly accounted for 33.3 million. The company’s latest numbers are up 11% from the year-ago quarter, which is pretty impressive when compared to the market’s decline of 15%. 

Huawei ended the fourth quarter with a huge market share of 39% in China. As for the entire year, it appears the homegrown company accounted for 38.5% of all shipments with 142 million units sold, up by 35% from the 104.8 million devices it sold a year earlier.

The market as a whole “significantly underperformed in a traditionally high season of smartphone sales.” This was largely down to the sudden decrease in demand for 4G smartphone purchases and weaker-than-anticipated interest in 5G.

It’s believed this could affect Huawei this year because it could “find it challenging” to persuade distribution partners to increase the share of Huawei devices as the sell-out of 4G models becomes increasingly difficult.

Apple tumbled, but there are some positive signs


On the opposite end of the best-selling smartphone brands in China spectrum sits Apple. The company continued in fifth place throughout 2019 with shipments of 27.5 million iPhones and a market share of 7.5%, down from 34.6 million and 8.7% twelve months earlier.

As typically happens during the final quarter, though, the arrival of the iPhone 11 series helped push Apple into fourth place ahead of rival Xiaomi. It shipped 10.1 million iPhones, a considerable drop from the 11.5 million devices sold a year earlier, but registered a two-year high market share of 11.8%. 

The competitive pricing of the iPhone 11 is understood to have been a big contributor to Apple’s latest quarterly result. It was the best-selling 4G smartphone in China and proves there’s “a strong pull factor for Apple’s products, at the right price, given the hardware and service ecosystem strength. 

These positive results suggest Apple will have a stronger-than-expected final quarter to 2020 when the 5G iPhone lineup debuts across the globe.

Oppo and Vivo are hopeful of recovery, Xiaomi continues to shrink


The data gathered by Canalys shows that Oppo (14 million, down 25% in Q4) and Vivo (13.1 million, down 29% in Q4) felt the biggest impact from Huawei’s growing presence in China. Retailers weren’t as interested in stocking these devices because of the appetite for Huawei phones, but some positives were noted.

Vivo became the second-largest 5G smartphone manufacturer in the region with 1.2 million devices sold. The new Oppo Reno series also proved extremely popular among consumers, with the new Reno 3 lineup shipping over 400,000 units in the first week.

Both of these brands are believed to be planning a strong portfolio of 5G smartphones this year that should help them stop Huawei’s continued growth. Only time will tell if the efforts are successful, though.

As for Xiaomi, the company continues to struggle and doesn’t appear to be improving in any category. It shipped 38.8 million devices in 2019 and held a market share of 10.5%, down from 49.1 million units and 12.4% the previous year.

Things were even worse in the final quarter, where it dropped down into fifth place and shipped just 8.1 million smartphones. Twelve months earlier, this number stood at 9.4 million.

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