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Apple Faces Decline in Chinese iPhone Shipments Amid Huawei’s Market Surge

In the final quarter of 2023, Apple experienced a 2.1% decline in iPhone shipments in China compared to the same period the previous year, according to data from research firm IDC. This setback comes amidst intensified competition from local rivals, spearheaded by Huawei, in the world’s largest smartphone market, which saw only a marginal 1.2% growth during that quarter.

Huawei, despite facing significant challenges due to US sanctions, staged a remarkable comeback in 2023 with a series of new launches, further heating up the competition in China’s smartphone arena. The company’s shipments surged by 36.2% in the last quarter of the year, propelling it to become the fourth-largest smartphone vendor in China with a market share of 13.9%, up from 10.3% in the same period of the previous year.

However, Apple managed to clinch the title of the top smartphone seller in China for the full year 2023, surpassing Vivo with a market share of 17.3%, as reported by IDC. Despite this achievement, analysts foresee challenges ahead for Apple in maintaining its position, especially considering the projected double-digit decline in shipment volumes for 2024, according to Jefferies analysts.

One of the key factors contributing to Apple’s struggles in the Chinese market is the impact of rival products, coupled with limited product upgrades, diminishing the overall appeal of iPhones, particularly in the high-end segment. To counter this, Apple has resorted to offering substantial discounts and promotions through third-party distribution channels, including rare price cuts of up to 500 yuan ($70) on its iPhones.

Looking ahead, analysts anticipate Huawei to further bolster its market share, with projections suggesting a substantial increase in smartphone shipments, reaching around 64 million units worldwide in 2024, compared to fewer than 35 million units in 2023.

Despite the challenges faced by both Apple and Huawei, the overall shipment volume in China’s smartphone market remained relatively stable, with 73.63 million units shipped in the fourth quarter and a total of 271 million units shipped throughout the year, as reported by IDC.

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