The dynamics of the Chinese smartphone market are shifting as Apple sees a significant drop in iPhone sales, while Huawei surges ahead with impressive growth. Counterpoint’s latest research indicates that iPhone sales in China fell by more than 19% in the first quarter of 2024, whereas Huawei’s smartphone sales grew by a remarkable 69.7% over the same period.

The resurgence of Huawei can be attributed to the launch of the Huawei Mate 60 series, which features a high-end chip with 5G capabilities. The device’s success has allowed Huawei to reclaim a notable share in the premium smartphone segment, despite ongoing US sanctions since 2019. Huawei’s comeback has elevated it to the fourth position among smartphone manufacturers in China, while Apple still holds the third spot.
Counterpoint Research: China Smartphone Q1 2024.

Ethan Qi, an associate director at Counterpoint, observed that the growth in smartphone sales in China could indicate a broader recovery trend, with the market experiencing a 4.6% quarter-on-quarter growth in the first quarter of 2024. He points to the Chinese New Year celebrations as a driving force behind the uptick in sales, suggesting that consumers were more inclined to purchase smartphones during the festive period.

Mengmeng Zhang, another senior analyst at Counterpoint, notes that the smartphone market in China has become increasingly competitive, with only a 3% gap in market share separating the top six players. This heightened competition is leading to more aggressive marketing strategies, particularly among Chinese OEMs, which are focusing on offering budget-friendly devices to attract a broader range of customers.

Senior Analyst Ivan Lam provides a more detailed breakdown of the market’s top performers, highlighting vivo’s 17.4% share and HONOR’s 16.1% share, while Apple holds onto 15.7%. The ongoing challenges for Apple stem from Huawei’s resurgence in the premium segment and a potential decline in replacement demand.

Looking ahead, Lam foresees a possible rebound for Apple in the coming months. He points out that a combination of new color options, aggressive sales initiatives, and anticipated AI features to be announced at WWDC in June could spark renewed interest in Apple’s products. While the road ahead is uncertain, the dynamics of the Chinese smartphone market are undoubtedly changing, with Huawei’s comeback casting a new spotlight on the industry.