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Apple stumbles big in China: iPhone sales plummet by 24%

The most popular phone in the world might be losing its grip in China.

Published onMarch 6, 2024

Oppo Find X7 Ultra vs iPhone 15 Pro Max vs Galaxy S23 Ultra
Robert Triggs / Android Authority
  • Facing fierce competition and lacking significant upgrades, Apple’s iPhone sales in China dropped significantly in the first six weeks of 2024.
  • Apple’s struggles coincide with HUAWEI’s comeback and aggressive pricing from domestic brands like Vivo and Xiaomi.

While Apple has a strong, sturdy position in the US, the same can’t be said for the company in China. The iPhone 15 maker is reportedly struggling in the world’s largest smartphone market, with sales plummeting by 24%.

According to independent research firm Counterpoint, sales for the iPhone dropped dramatically (by 24%) over the first six weeks of 2024. At the same time, the broader Chinese mobile market itself shrank by 7% during this period. Despite that, it appears domestic brands, like vivo and OPPO, were able to take the lead by targeting the budget segment.

For its part, Apple did make an effort to encourage sales by offering rare discounts on its online store in January. Some online resellers even have been cutting iPhone prices by as much as $180. Regardless, Apple’s market share still ended up falling below 16%, down from 19%. This decline extends to Apple’s partners as well, with iPhone assembly partner Hon Hai Precision Industry experiencing an 18% slump in sales over the first two months of 2024.

Meanwhile, HUAWEI, Apple’s chief competitor in the premium smartphone segment in China, witnessed a remarkable 64% increase in unit sales during the same timeframe. HUAWEI’s resurgence was reportedly fueled by the successful launch of its homegrown Mate 60 Pro devices. Thanks to what’s said to be a wave of patriotic buying, HUAWEI’s share has surged from 9.4% to 16.5% in the Chinese market.

Additionally, aggressive pricing from domestic brands like OPPO, vivo, and Xiaomi in the mid-range segment could be further squeezing Apple’s sales. As Senior Analyst Mengmeng Zhang points out in the report, “Although the iPhone 15 is a great device, it has no significant upgrades from the previous version, so consumers feel fine holding on to the older-generation iPhones for now.”

While that may be true for some people, there are also other reasons why people hold onto their iPhones for longer. It remains to be seen whether Apple’s struggles in China could have ripple effects across the Western world. On the bright side, Apple’s latest earnings report did show some resilience, with stronger iPhone sales in the holiday quarter and a return to revenue growth.

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