Apple captures 23% market in China in 2021 Q4, here is what helped the company to beat vivo

A mix of its pricing strategy and gain from Huawei’s premium base have collectively helped Apple to become number one brand in China in the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2021. With 23% market share, Apple has now surpassed vivo for the first time since Q4 2015, according to Counterpoint Research’s Monthly Market Pulse Service. Researchers believe that Apple’s success in the premium segment is an encouraging sign and will continue to motivate Chinese Original equipment manufacturer (OEMs) to strengthen their footprints in the segment. The report also indicates that realme was the fastest growing brand (83% YoY) in Q4 2021. While, four out of five smartphones sold in China in Q4 2021 were 5G capable.

 

The report also claims that overall smartphone sales in China has noted a decline in Q4. The country’s smartphone sales declined 2% QoQ and 9% YoY, respectively and full-year smartphone sales too continued the downward trend for the fourth consecutive year, declining 2% YoY in 2021.
Commenting on the overall Chinese smartphone market, Senior Analyst Ivan Lam said, “The market in China continues to decline due to various factors in both the supply side and the demand side. Firstly, the ongoing component shortages are impacting shipments of all OEM). Secondly, China’s average smartphone replacement cycle is becoming longer. Smartphone designs within brands have also become more homogeneous, especially in hardware, failing to motivate consumers to upgrade. Lastly, China has been experiencing a complex economic environment where exports are driving the growth and domestic spending remains lackluster.”

However, in terms of OEMs, the competition has intensified after Huawei’s decline and the market dynamics are changing rapidly. OPPO was the top OEM in Q1 2021, followed by vivo in Q2 and Q3 and now Apple in Q4.

“Apple’s stellar performance was driven by a mix of its pricing strategy and gain from Huawei’s premium base. Apple rose to first place in China right after the iPhone 13 was released (week 39) in September. Afterwards, it remained in the leading position for most of the fourth quarter. The new iPhone 13 has led the success due to a relatively lower starting price at its release in China, as well as the new camera and 5G features.

Furthermore, Huawei, Apple’s main competitor in the premium market, faced declining sales due to the ongoing US sanctions,” said Mengmeng Zhang, Research Analyst.

vivo and OPPO took the second and third spots respectively, driven by their strong offline penetration and expansive product portfolio strategy. vivo’s performance was driven by the X70 series and S series, and OPPO took off with the Reno 7 series. HONOR also started rebounding in the second half of 2021 after restoring relationships with suppliers. It captured the fourth spot in Q4 2021. Facing more severe component shortages, slower penetration in offline channels as well as competition from HONOR, Xiaomi ranked fifth during the quarter.

The year gone by also proved to be a milestone in terms of Chinese OEMs embracing advanced technology. vivo, OPPO and Xiaomi all launched self-developed chipsets to showcase their investments in semiconductors. OPPO and HONOR also launched foldable flagship models, with more mature designs and highly customized software, especially for Chinese users. Foldables bring a new form factor to the smartphone design. As foldables become more affordable, they are likely to drive some users to upgrade.

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