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A customer tests Apple's iPhone 11 after it went on sale at the Apple Store in Beijing on September 20. Photo: Reuters

Apple’s iPhone hits double-digit growth in China, official data show

  • The iPhone maker’s shipments in China hit roughly 3.2 million units in December, up 18.7 per cent from a year ago

Apple bagged a significant smartphone shipment jump in China last month, as the world’s largest consumer electronics market heads into its holiday season, official data indicate.

The iPhone maker’s shipments in China grew 18.7 per cent year on year in December to roughly 3.2 million units, according to Bloomberg calculations based on government data on overall and Android device shipments.

The increase marked an acceleration from the prior months, which were buoyed by the iPhone 11’s release in September. The numbers come from the China Academy of Information and Communication Technology (CAICT), a government think tank.

Shares in Apple suppliers AMS, Infineon Technologies, STMicroelectronics and Dialog Semiconductor climbed in early European trade, buoyed by an overall tech sector rally. The improvement in December iPhone sales in China despite a lack of 5G readiness was “quite positive” for Apple and its suppliers, analysts at Oddo wrote in a note on Thursday.

Apple stock soars after company announces US$1.42 billion in holiday App Store sales

Apple made major strides in increasing battery life in its iPhone 11 and 11 Pro devices, while lowering the starting price by US$50. After years of stagnation in cameras, the company also overhauled the iPhone’s image quality in 2019, catching up to category leaders Google and Huawei Technologies. This approach drew an overwhelmingly positive reception from critics.

The latest data affirms expectations that the iPhone 11 is selling more strongly than its predecessor, particularly in a market that is second only to the United States in its importance to Apple’s bottom line.

The surge in shipments gives reason for optimism around Apple’s smartphone sales in the build-up to the Lunar New Year, which falls in late January. China’s overall smartphone shipments in December fell short of 30 million units, a 13.7 per cent decrease compared to the same period in 2018, according to CAICT.

Still, the Cupertino, California-based company is fighting an uphill battle against a group of domestic Android smartphone vendors led by Huawei, which gained a dominant position in 2019 despite facing sanctions and struggles abroad. As the year progresses, Apple’s lack of 5G-enabled devices and inability to get its full range of online services past Chinese censors will make sustaining this initial shipment improvement an uncertain task.

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