Apple iPhone sales in China plunged 20% in 4Q

Galtero Lara
Febrero 11, 2019

Huawei, which briefly surpassed Apple to become the world's No. 2 smartphone brand in 2018, remains the runaway leader at home.

Cupertino, California-based Apple's latest iPhone models, which are mostly priced above US$1,000, face a tough challenge from Chinese-brand devices that cost about half or a third less.

Apple reported a 19.9 per cent decline in shipments in China in the fourth quarter, but climbed one place to No 4 in smartphone shipments after Xiaomi did even worse, tumbling 34.9 per cent during the same period, according to a report by research firm IDC, published on Monday. A slowing economy, lengthening replacement times and the iPhone's hefty price tag contributed to the USA giant's decline in China, IDC said.

As noted, Huawei sales surged by 23 percent in the same quarter, indicating that this phone maker-which is now number two in the world ahead of Apple-has improved the quality of its products dramatically.

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The declines occurred weeks after CEO Tim Cook announced a reduction in first-quarter revenue guidance owing to economic pressures in China, including slowing demand for iPhones. Xiaomi Corp. fared even worse in the final months of past year, when unit shipments plunged nearly 35 per cent, the consultancy estimates. That doesn't mean that iPhone unit sales fell 15 percent, however: Apple raised prices across the board in 2018 in order to maintain its margins, and the average selling price of the iPhone went up. The Chinese slowdown was the driving factor behind Apple's first revenue outlook cut in nearly two decades. That's despite grappling with an unusually turbulent few months during which its finance chief was arrested on allegations of bank fraud, and the USA marshaled its allies to try and block the company from selling next-generation networking gear.

Apple was ranked fourth by shipments in the country during the period, trailing China's Oppo and Vivo, IDC said. But there's an unrelated reason, IDC says: Xiaomi suffered from "inventory corrections and an internal restructuring", the firm claims.

"The domestic smartphone market environment in 2019 doesn't look very optimistic", IDC senior analyst Wang Xi said in the report.

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