Apple reclaims No.1 spot in China’s smartphone market after six years

Apple regained its top spot in China’s smartphone landscape, clocking a record high market share of 23% in the fourth quarter of 2021, as according to Counterpoint Research (a technology market research institute) on 26 January.

This has put the American iPhone maker the number one player in the lucrative market for the first time after it beat its Chinese rival Vivo in 2015. The local brand is not far behind in second at 19%, followed by another Chinese smartphone maker Oppo, who saw a market share of 17% for the same period.

It is also worth noting, despite the slide in Q4 last year, Vivo remained as the top-selling vendor in the Chinese market for the whole of 2021, reminding the foreign brand of the intensified competition amid the rise of China’s domestic brands. Huawei, another Chinese smart device provider, on the other hand, had fallen to sixth in Q4, with a year-on-year drop in market share to 7% from 23%, implying fast-changing market dynamics in the smartphone battlefield in China.

Apple’s pole position was achieved despite the overall sales of smartphones in this country seeing a quarter-on-quarter dip by 2% and a decrease by 9% year-on-year, showing the brand’s resilience in the event of a market downturn. The release of its iPhone 13 line-up last September is believed to have pulled up the solid growth, with the new model of iPhone naturally drawing a lot of consumers.

It is reported that the release had sparked a buying storm at Apple’s local stores on its arrival in the country. Soon after that, the brand had risen to first place, thanks to a large loyal consumer base within China and Apple being able to motivate this base into buying the new design.

In the meantime, the stellar performance seen at Apple was a result of a mixed pricing strategy, said Mengmeng Zhang a research analyst at Counterpoint Research. “The new iPhone 13 has led the success due to a relatively lower starting price in China,” Zhang continued, naturally making the product more widely purchasable as well as making it more enticing for those loyal customers.

While the high-resolution camera, together with 5G features, has been two main selling points, appealing to the social media savvy young Chinese who also can’t get enough of vlogging. Additionally, the declining sales of its main competitor Huawei in the premium market, amid the ongoing sanctions by the US, have also contributed to Apple’s win, added Zhang.

With China continuing to be a key market for Apple, the current success in the premium segment in the country comes as an encouraging sign for the brand. However, the strong catch-up by homegrown brands would undoubtedly pose challenges for the foreign player in the long term. If Apple is able to strengthen its footprints in this segment, the efforts would enhance its dominant position and its competitiveness in this lucrative market. 

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