Samsung and Xiaomi are the big winners in China's smartphone market this year while Apple sales dropped, says a new research report.
The research, carried out by consumer insight company Kantar Worldpanel, finds Samsung's popular Galaxy line of smartphones helped the Korean company corner the largest share of the mainland's mobile market this year.
Galaxy S3 and S4 models have been especially popular, as has been the Galaxy Note 2, a phone and tablet hybrid sometimes referred to as a "phablet".
The combined sales of these three models accounted for 25 per cent of Samsung's total profit for the third quarter this year. Half of all "premium" smartphones, referring to phones with a price of at least 3,000 yuan (HK$3,817), sold on the mainland during the period were Samsung products.
Samsung's marketing and brand loyalty programmes made the company's phones a popular buy with first-time smartphone purchasers, but Kantar's research also shows the company would need to create more innovative models if it wants to stay ahead in the long run, particularly as the Galaxy S4 is widely seen as only an incremental upgrade over the S3.
Xiaomi, a mainland company founded only in 2010, benefited from its latest "budget" smartphone - the Mi-3, starting from 1,999 yuan (HK$ 2,543).
This price point has helped Xiaomi sell to consumers keen on "high-spec, low-price phones", the report said, and helped the fledgling company beat experienced competitor Lenovo to become the second-largest Android phone seller in the third quarter of this year.
"Given the growing penetration rate of smartphones and increasingly similar features offered by phones of various brands, further complicated by Xiaomi's 'price revolution', it's inevitable that consumers are…[beginning] to realise that good user experiences don't necessarily come with a hefty price tag," the report said.
In contrast to the success enjoyed by Samsung and Xiaomi, Apple's sales this year have lagged behind the competition, and its market share dropped from 19.5 per cent in the second quarter of the year to 18 per cent in the third.
Ironically, the drop in sales may have been caused by the launch of newer versions of Apple hardware.
"The culprit might be the launch of iPhone 5s [and] 5c on September 20," the report said, alluding that at the beginning of the third quarter, Apple supporters were eagerly waiting for the launch of the next generation iPhone and stopped purchasing existing models, holding back sales.
Kantar Worldpanel's research was carried out via a survey on 15,000 Chinese smartphone users over the year.