Huawei snatches top spot from Apple in the world’s largest smartphone market

Huawei Technologies has surged back to the top spot in China’s smartphone market during the first fortnight of the new year, as per a recent report by research firm Counterpoint. This resurgence intensifies the competition for 2023’s market leader, Apple, and other major mainland competitors in the world’s largest handset market.

This milestone marks Huawei’s return to the pinnacle of smartphone sales in China since being subjected to sanctions by Washington in May 2019.

The sanctions had severely impacted Huawei’s handset business, but the company’s recent rebound has been attributed to strategic releases like the Mate 60 Pro 5G smartphone and the introduction of HarmonyOS, its Android replacement platform.

Additionally, strong brand loyalty among Chinese consumers has significantly fueled the popularity of Huawei’s latest 5G handsets.

Despite Huawei’s resurgence, the Counterpoint report highlights fierce competition from Apple and prominent domestic vendors like Xiaomi, Oppo, and Vivo, which continue to roll out high-end smartphone models.

The robust demand for Huawei’s new 5G smartphone models signals an uptick in consumer appetite for handset upgrades amid China’s efforts to mitigate economic challenges.

Data from the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology shows a 6.5 per cent year-on-year increase in smartphone shipments in 2023, with domestic brands accounting for approximately 80 per cent of total shipments.

Although Apple led the high-end handset segment in China during the first half of last year, its sales faced pressure in the third quarter due to the aggressive push by Chinese vendors, particularly Huawei.

The recent decline in iPhone sales in the fourth quarter aligns with the resurgence of Huawei’s smartphone sales in China. Apple reported a nearly 13 per cent drop in revenue from the Greater China region, while its weekly smartphone shipments in China plummeted by 30 to 40 per cent in recent weeks, according to analyst Kuo Ming-chi.

Despite Apple’s dominance in the global premium smartphone market, its share saw a decline in 2023 due to Huawei’s resurgence on the mainland and the gains made by Samsung Electronics.

In response to heightened competition, Apple initiated discounts on various products ahead of the Lunar New Year, aiming to maintain its position against competitors like Xiaomi and Honor. However, Huawei refrained from a similar strategy due to supply shortages of its Mate 60 Pro caused by production constraints.

(With inputs from agencies)

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