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In China, the iPhone is only second-best

The list of best-selling smartphones in China during 2017 features two Apple devices, but neither of them makes the number one slot.

Published onJanuary 17, 2018

  • The top ten best-selling smartphones in China are mostly Android devices, with only two Apple phones on the list.
  • The best-selling phone is the OPPO R9s, a device that is not sold in the United States.
  • Chinese consumers look for great cameras, low prices, and colorful designs, over high-end specs.

With 2017 behind us, year-end data is starting to trickle out into the world for us to examine. Hong Kong-based industry analysis firm Counterpoint recently published an in-depth look at smartphone sales in the largest market in the world: China. The results are surprising.

Americans are used to seeing a few big brands at the top of industry sales lists, most notably Apple and Samsung. But in China, the brands that dominate smartphone sales are relatively unknown here in The States; Oppo, Vivo, Huawei, and Xiaomi to name a few. Apple’s iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus are both in the top ten, but neither hit number one.

The best-selling smartphone in China for 2017 is the mid-range OPPO R9s, an Android device that looks like someone smashed an iPhone 7 and a Samsung Galaxy S7 together. If you’ve never heard of the OPPO R9s don’t feel too bad; it’s not officially sold here in the United States.

Counterpoint speculates that the OPPO R9s was able to beat out the likes of Apple by appealing to what Chinese consumers do most with their smartphones, which is take selfies to post to social media. The R9s has a decent camera for its price range, and it has software that instantly “beautifies” selfies. Combining the photo features with the diverse selection of colors the device comes in impressed the market, resulting in the R9s earning 3% of all Chinese smartphone sales in 2017.

The fact that the best-selling smartphone in China is a mid-range device may seem surprising, but eight of the top-ten phones all fall into this category. The iPhone 7 (#5 on the list) and 7 Plus (#2 in the list) are the only two devices in the top ten that would be considered high-end flagship devices. This statistic is a clear indication that Chinese consumers are making value-based decisions when it comes to smartphone purchasing.

It’s also interesting that the #3 smartphone manufacturer in the world, HUAWEI, didn’t have a device that cracked the top five; the HUAWEI HONOR 8 Lite and HONOR Enjoy 6X fall at #8 and #10 respectively.

Phones from vivo and Xiaomi fill out the rest of the top ten, and like the OPPO R9s the models that made the cut are camera-centric, low-priced, and come in many bright colors.

There’s no doubt that China and America are very different markets when it comes to smartphones, and these numbers prove that in spades. It will be interesting to see how companies like Samsung, ZTE, and LG try to work themselves onto the 2018 list.