Apple drops to fourth place in China's smartphone sales

Posted:
in iPhone

China's smartphone market has continued to decline so far in 2024, and local resellers such as Huawei have overtaken Apple's iPhone.

iPhone 15 Pro colorful lineup
iPhone 15 Pro colorful lineup



After coming top in China overall in 2023, Apple has dropped to fourth place in the first six weeks of 2024, according to Counterpoint Research. The post-holiday period always sees a significant drop in sales for all resellers, though, and what may be more significant is the decline in China's smartphone market.

Apple's success in the last quarter of 2023 had led to what seemed to be a stemming of the years of decline in China's overall sales. Counterpoint's latest figures say that China's market declined 7% year over year in these first six weeks of 2024.

However, Counterpoint notes that the same period in 2023 "saw abnormally high numbers with significant unit sales being deferred from December 2022 due to production issues, magnifying the negative YoY comparison."

Bar graph showing Huawei and Honor ahead of Apple in smartphone sales in China for 2023 and 2024, with Apple ranking fourth after Vivo, Huawei, and Honor.
Year over Year comparison of China's top smartphone manufacturers (Source: Counterpoint)



Counterpoint publishes comparative figures of the growth or decline of individual brands within China, but that's a nonsense. It shows Huawei growing by 64%, while Apple dropped a huge 24%, but the figures are not remotely comparable.

More revealing and useful is that Apple's 24% drop is from a 19% market share at the same point in 2023, and is now on 15.7%. Huawei was on 9.4% at this point in 2023, and is now on 16.5%.

"Primarily, [Apple] faced stiff competition at the high end from a resurgent Huawei while getting squeezed in the middle on aggressive pricing from the likes of OPPO, vivo and Xiaomi," said Mengmeng Zhang, senior analyst. "Although the iPhone 15 is a great device, it has no significant upgrades from the previous version, so consumers feel fine holding on to the older-generation iPhones for now."

The figures put Huawei ahead of Apple, but only fractionally, and not as markedly as the 64% growth versus 24% decline suggests.

China's top-selling smartphone manufacturer for the first six weeks of 2024 was Vivo on 18% market share. Second place was Huawei, then came Honor on 16%.

Counterpoint analysts ascribe Vivo's success to how it has targeted the more budget-conscious end of the smartphone market. It also says that overall, sales are down because of a lack of consumer confidence.

While this is not the end of the decline that was hoped for Counterpoint still sees some better news coming.

"The previous year period was already quite depressed, but as far as Apple is concerned, there is more wriggle room in the short term," said analyst Ivan Lam. "The aggressive promotions before Women's Day are just one example."

China's Women's Day holiday is on Friday, March 8. Ahead of it, major resellers in the country have been lowering prices on the iPhone 15 range.



Read on AppleInsider

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 10
    wow... Bad news from day to day. Stock tanking from day to day.
    What bad news do we get tomorrow? 

    Tim Apple must feel betrayed by the Chinese government and maybe, he is crying now. 

    I am pretty sure that their promotion for national phones is initiated by the Chinese government. 
  • Reply 2 of 10
    FWIW Huawei is a phone maker, not a "local reseller" - they make some of the best Android phones, unfortunately got banned in the US for political reasons. 

    Honor is a Huawei sub-brand to sort of get around the restrictions, although it seems Huawei doesn't really care all that much about the US / EU market at the moment.
    avon b7muthuk_vanalingamtokyojimu
  • Reply 3 of 10
    danoxdanox Posts: 2,963member
    Apple will just be one of the crowd/boys in the most competitive smartphone market in the world, notice Samsung and Google are nowhere to be found in China, Apple will be between 10-20 percent in China why because the Chinese will continue to buy the very best devices/products from the west Apple/German cars/Rolex/Fashion etc.... but they won't buy the lesser western products when local products are available and same is somewhat true in Korea/Japan/Singapore.

    Every year. for at least 10 years Apple is written up as doomed in China 2 or 3 times in a calendar year without fail.
    edited March 5 badmonk
  • Reply 4 of 10
    charlesncharlesn Posts: 878member
    Funny thing:

    Back on Jan 25th, it was reported that Apple led China in phone sales for all of 2023. So yeah, let's definitely set our hair on fire now, just eight weeks into the new year, because clearly, Apple is doomed! Geez, does it never end? The top four or five phone makers in China are all within a percentage point or less of each other, so there are many things that could affect the sales rankings within any given quarter or month. 
    muthuk_vanalingamBart Y
  • Reply 5 of 10
    humbug1873humbug1873 Posts: 134member
    That's counting by number of devices sold or by revenue? By Revenue reason to worry by number of devices sold to be expected. China is still moving its people up in society (even though that slowed down) so I would expect buyers on the low-end to grow faster in numbers (which Apple doesn't cover with it's iPhone offerings ... never has been and probably/hopefully never will).
  • Reply 6 of 10
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 7,750member
    charlesn said:
    Funny thing:

    Back on Jan 25th, it was reported that Apple led China in phone sales for all of 2023. So yeah, let's definitely set our hair on fire now, just eight weeks into the new year, because clearly, Apple is doomed! Geez, does it never end? The top four or five phone makers in China are all within a percentage point or less of each other, so there are many things that could affect the sales rankings within any given quarter or month. 
    It's just a snapshot of the market from one company and actually the second time they have referred to this. The first was after two weeks of 2024. In that sense it's premature but it's wise not to forget the bigger picture. 

    Apple itself has formally said this quarter will be rocky. Apple only has one bullet in the phone chamber which it has already fired. There will be no more until September/October. 

    Apparently the lack of folding options is weighing sales down. 

    Samsung, Huawei et al all release multiple flagships throughout the year to keep sales on an uptick. 

    In the case of Chinese competitors specifically, Huawei will probably release the P70 series this month. It will be a major release. It released its latest generation flip phone just a few weeks ago. A new folding option will also be released. 

    A lot of 'Huawei Inside' cars are coming to market which all run on HarmonyOS and are perfect partners for its phones.

    HarmonyOS is tipped to overtake iOS in China this year.

    Beyond phones, Huawei outsold Apple in China for tablets recently and I believe the same was true in watches. I'd need to check that last one. 

    The question is how things will play out because, as you pointed out, it's all somewhat premature right now.

    However, headwinds are there. 
    edited March 6
  • Reply 7 of 10
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 7,750member
    And as if that wasn't enough, now this...


    "Huawei is back with all that entails—bad news for Washington and California indeed. Could it be that November’s US election will see a rematch, a full return to those battles of the past, and if so, what cards are left to play that weren’t tabled last time around. We’ll have to wait and see..."

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/zakdoffman/2024/03/06/apple-iphone-15-pro-max-and-googles-android-china-problem-vs-huawei/?sh=3eae7b5c6dbe


  • Reply 8 of 10
    tmaytmay Posts: 6,364member
    avon b7 said:
    And as if that wasn't enough, now this...


    "Huawei is back with all that entails—bad news for Washington and California indeed. Could it be that November’s US election will see a rematch, a full return to those battles of the past, and if so, what cards are left to play that weren’t tabled last time around. We’ll have to wait and see..."

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/zakdoffman/2024/03/06/apple-iphone-15-pro-max-and-googles-android-china-problem-vs-huawei/?sh=3eae7b5c6dbe
    Huawei isn't going to have enough SOC's, and those that it has, aren't as performant as those TSMC and Samsung are producing. 

    Good luck with sales outside of China.
  • Reply 9 of 10
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 7,750member
    tmay said:
    avon b7 said:
    And as if that wasn't enough, now this...


    "Huawei is back with all that entails—bad news for Washington and California indeed. Could it be that November’s US election will see a rematch, a full return to those battles of the past, and if so, what cards are left to play that weren’t tabled last time around. We’ll have to wait and see..."

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/zakdoffman/2024/03/06/apple-iphone-15-pro-max-and-googles-android-china-problem-vs-huawei/?sh=3eae7b5c6dbe
    Huawei isn't going to have enough SOC's, and those that it has, aren't as performant as those TSMC and Samsung are producing. 

    Good luck with sales outside of China.
    You said that before and were resoundingly wrong. 

    What does 'aren't as performant' even mean exactly?

    Everybody knows the SoCs aren't based on the latest nodes but that hasn't stopped them overtaking Apple, has it? 

    And that was with a phone that, according to you, couldn't ship in volume. I can only assume that Apple only sold a handful of iPhones in China if Huawei (without Honor) is selling more. 

    The same has happened with tablets. Ironically, running on the same SoC! So much for yield problems. 

    In AI, Nvidia named Huawei as a formidable rival in its latest earnings call. 

    In automobile the AITO line is selling very well. 

    https://theedgemalaysia.com/node/703987

    Now add to that the other brands running Huawei hardware. 

    But before you reply, take time out to re-read the linked article. 


    edited March 8
  • Reply 10 of 10
    tmaytmay Posts: 6,364member
    avon b7 said:
    tmay said:
    avon b7 said:
    And as if that wasn't enough, now this...


    "Huawei is back with all that entails—bad news for Washington and California indeed. Could it be that November’s US election will see a rematch, a full return to those battles of the past, and if so, what cards are left to play that weren’t tabled last time around. We’ll have to wait and see..."

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/zakdoffman/2024/03/06/apple-iphone-15-pro-max-and-googles-android-china-problem-vs-huawei/?sh=3eae7b5c6dbe
    Huawei isn't going to have enough SOC's, and those that it has, aren't as performant as those TSMC and Samsung are producing. 

    Good luck with sales outside of China.
    You said that before and were resoundingly wrong. 

    What does 'aren't as performant' even mean exactly?

    Everybody knows the SoCs aren't based on the latest nodes but that hasn't stopped them overtaking Apple, has it? 

    And that was with a phone that, according to you, couldn't ship in volume. I can only assume that Apple only sold a handful of iPhones in China if Huawei (without Honor) is selling more. 

    The same has happened with tablets. Ironically, running on the same SoC! So much for yield problems. 

    In AI, Nvidia named Huawei as a formidable rival in its latest earnings call. 

    In automobile the AITO line is selling very well. 

    https://theedgemalaysia.com/node/703987

    Now add to that the other brands running Huawei hardware. 

    But before you reply, take time out to re-read the linked article. 


    https://www.phonearena.com/news/number-of-phones-shipped-with-huawei-kirin-chipsets-soars-q4_id155983

    Hisilicon shipped something on the order of 7 m SOC's to Huawei last quarter. That doesn't sound like a lot against Apple's 78 m.

    Apple seems to be leading Huawei today, which would indicate that, maybe, Huawei can't get enough SOC's...
    edited March 8
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