The Chinese phone market cratered in the final quarter of 2018, but iPhone sales in the country did even worse.
According to new data from Strategy Analytics, Apple shipped 10.9 million iPhones to China in the final quarter of 2018, or 22 percent less than the 14 million it shipped at the end of 2017. For the full year, 2018 iPhone shipments reached 34.2 million units, down from 36.7 million in 2017.
Overall smartphone shipments in China dropped 11 percent year over year, down from 121 million units in Q4 2017 to 108 million units this year, marking the fifth consecutive quarter that smartphone shipments fell in China. Full-year smartphone shipments to China dropped 11 percent too, down from 460 million in 2017 to 408 million in 2018.
“The Chinese smartphone market is in recession and has declined for five consecutive quarters,” says Yiwen Wu, a senior analyst at Strategy Analytics. “The smartphone market is suffering from longer replacement cycles and weak consumer spending. Smartphone shipments declined 11 percent annually to hit 408.5 million during full-year 2018. The past year has been exceptionally tough and one the smartphone industry will want to forget.”
Despite the overall decline in smartphone shipments, Apple surpassed Xiaomi to become the number four smartphone vendor in China, but its iPhone sales fell short of Huawei, OPPO, and Vivo, all Chinese companies that make more affordable smartphones.
“iPhone shipments dropped 22 percent annually and this was the firm’s worst performance since early 2017,” says Linda Sui, a director at Strategy Analytics. “Apple iPhone has now fallen on a year-over-year basis in China for 8 of the past 12 quarters. Apple has been under pressure in China for the past three years. Ongoing patent battles with Qualcomm are a distraction, while Apple is being heavily criticized for its expensive retail prices.”
Apple will likely continue to see poor sales in the first quarter of 2019 and the Cupertino company has already cut the revenue guidance for Q1. Apple CEO Tim Cook earlier this month blamed the cut to weaker-than-anticipated sales as well as the ongoing trade tussle between US and China.
Among other smartphone makers in China, Huawei shipped a total of 30 million units in the fourth quarter of last year, followed by Oppo with 22.4 million and Vivo with 22.2 million. Xiaomi, which is now on number five in China, shipped just 10 million units in the last quarter, down from 15.5 million units year-on-year, said Strategy Analytics in its research report.