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China’s smartphone market plunged by 11% in 2018

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The smartphone market in China declined by 11% in Q4 2018 and by similar magnitude the whole year, according to numbers from the research firm Strategy Analytics.

Quarterly shipments of smartphones in China dropped from 121 million in Q4 2017 to 108 million in the last quarter of 2018. The annual volume in 2018 came down to 409 million from 460 million the previous year. The market registered a fifth consecutive quarter of contraction, largely due to longer replacement cycle and weak consumer spending, according to the quarterly update from the firm. In 2018, China’s economic growth came to the lowest annual rate since 1990, reported media recently.

No everyone suffered equally though. Huawei beat the competitors as well as the market by shipping 30 million smartphones in the quarter, capturing 28% of the market, giving it a clear market leadership position. “Huawei’s growth soared 23% annually and it is now the clear market leader. A strong product portfolio, famous brand and extensive retail channels were among the main success factors,” commented Neil Mawston, Executive Director at Strategy Analytics.

While Samsung, the global leader in smartphone market, has long underperformed in China and is nowhere to be seen on the leader board, Apple’s woes also continued. It is now occupying the number four position on the chart, with 10% market share. “iPhone shipments dropped 22% annually and this was the firm’s worst performance since early 2017. Apple iPhone has now fallen on a year-over-year basis in China for 8 of the past 12 quarters,” said Linda Sui, Director at Strategy Analytics. Similar to what we have seen in India, the majority of the Chinese consumers, faced with the abundant choices offered by the Android products, do not see enough value for money in the iPhone. “Apple is in danger of pricing the iPhone out of China,” Sui added.

The intense competition in China is driving some local brands to look elsewhere for new opportunities. Xiaomi, which just dropped below Apple in the latest quarter in the Chinese market, is eyeing Europe and Latin America for new growth. OnePlus is another Chinese brand trying to gain a foothold in the mature markets with strong specs at appealing price level. However they may find the consumers in these markets less receptive to new brands. For example, a recent research done by Tappable, a UK mobile app developer, suggests only 34% of consumers would consider purchasing from less known brands.

SA China smartphone market 4Q18


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