Apple iPhone loses Chinese market share for first time as Oppo, Huawei, Vivo gain ground

Apple shipped 44.9 million iPhones in the mainland last year, giving it a 9.6 per cent market share, down from 13.6 per cent in 2015, according to IDC

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 February, 2017, 5:31pm
UPDATED : Monday, 06 February, 2017, 11:00pm

Apple’s iPhone suffered its first ever decline in its share of the mainland’s smartphone market last year, as it lost ground to the three top-selling Chinese vendors.

Oppo, Huawei and Vivo between them accounted for nearly half of the domestic smartphone market in 2016.

Apple, the world’s most-valuable technology company, saw a year-on-year fall in its share of the mainland market. Apple shipped 44.9 million iPhones in the mainland last year, giving it a 9.6 per cent market share, down from 13.6 per cent in 2015, according to the latest report from IDC.

The smartphone market in the mainland grew by 8.7 per cent year-on-year in 2016. The three top Chinese vendors shipped more than 224 million smartphones, taking more than 48 per cent of the domestic market share between them.

Oppo took 16.8 per cent of the sector, with Huawei in second place on 16.4 per cent and Vivo third with 14.8 per cent. Apple and Xiaomi ranked fourth and fifth after them.

The new trend shows a growing acceptance among Chinese consumers of vendors in their home country, as product features and marketing efforts improve.

“Increased dependence on mobile apps has led consumers to seek phone upgrades, thus helping drive the large growth in the fourth quarter of 2016. In lower tiered cities, there was a similar demand by consumers, which Oppo and Vivo met by aggressively pushing mid-range smartphones in these cities,” said Xiaohan Tay, a senior market analyst with IDC Asia and Pacific.

IDC expects the top vendors to further expand their share of the mainland market this year while smaller brands begin consolidation. Apple will see its market share grow since most Apple users in China are thought to be holding out for the new iPhone that will be launched this year.

One trend that stood out in 2016 was a slowdown in the growth of online sales channel in China, IDC said. Most brands are now using a combination of channels – online and offline - to increase their shipments.

Xiaomi, which previously focused on online channels, has opened more Mi Home stores to drive offline growth. Apple has also been aggressive in increasing its offline retail presence.

Both Oppo and Vivo are emerging quickly because of their extensive network of offline retailers in China.

Oppo sells its smartphones at more than 200,000 retail points across China, of which 6,500 are the company’s independently-operated experience stores.

This year, cameras will continue to be a key focus for Chinese smartphone makers, especially given the strong ‘selfie’ culture in China, IDC added. Chinese vendors will also be aggressive with new technologies such as flexible screens and augmented reality.