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New research says that Apple has become China's top smartphone vendor for the first time since Q4 2015, with the iPhone getting its highest-ever market share of 23%.
In 2019, Apple was warning of severe sales problems in China, and claiming it had plans to restore its success there. Now Counterpoint Research claims that not only has Apple become China's biggest smartphone brand, but it has also beaten its own record for market share in the country.
Commenting on Apple's performance, Research Analyst Mengmeng Zhang said, "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 in September ," said Counterpoint Research analyst Mengmeng Zhang in a report. "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," she continued. "Furthermore, Huawei, Apple's main competitor in the premium market, faced declining sales due to the ongoing US sanctions."
Apple was previously China's top-selling brand in 2015 when Counterpoint says "the iPhone 6 supercycle was its peak."
However, while Apple has achieved its highest share of the market in China, that market has also significantly declined. According to Counterpoint, smartphone sales in China declined 9% year-over-year for Q4, and this was the third quarterly decline in a row.
"The market in China continues to decline due to various factors in both the supply side and the demand side," said Counterpoint senior analyst Ivan Lam. "Firstly, the ongoing component shortages are impacting shipments of all OEMs."
"Secondly, China's average smartphone replacement cycle is becoming longer," continued Lam. "Lastly, China has been experiencing a complex economic environment where exports are driving the growth and domestic spending remains lackluster."
For Q4 2021, Counterpoint reports that Apple's 23% share is followed by vivo on 19%. Then OPPO had 17%, and Honor was third with 15%.
Note that because Samsung sells poorly in China, Counterpoint lists the company only in its Others category. That group category achieved a 4% market share in total.