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Apple storms to top spot in stagnant Chinese phones market

Samsung, Toshiba take a dive in latest estimates

Apple is now the top smartphone seller in China, topping foreign and domestic competitors alike in the Middle Kingdom, but overall Chinese handset sales fell for the first time in six years.

A report from IDC citing sales in the first quarter of 2015 found that the Cupertino idiot tax operation has taken over the top spot on the strength of 14.5 million units shipped, an increase of 62 per cent year-on-year.

Apple had previously noted a surge in sales for China. In his company's last quarterly call, executives reported China revenue was up 71 per cent on the year-ago quarter at a record clip of $16.8bn.

Apple's 14.7 per cent share of the market edged out Xiaomi, who shipped 13.5 million units on the quarter for a 13.7 per cent share of the market.

Huawei was third, with 11.2 million units and an 11.4 per cent market share. Followed by Samsung and Lenovo, both of whom plummeted in the Chinese market over the last year.

Last year's leader Samsung saw a 53 per cent year-on-year drop in sales as the Korean firm went from 20.5 million handsets shipped and a 19.9 per cent market share to just 9.6 million units and a 9.7 per cent market share. Lenovo's position tumbled from 10.2 per cent to 8.3 per cent of the total market as year-on-year shipments fell by nearly a quarter from 10.5 million to 8.2 million handsets.

All other vendors sold for 41.7 million handsets, accounting for 42.2 per cent share of the market. In total, IDC estimates that 98.8 million smartphones were shipped in China on the quarter, down 4.3 per cent from last year's Q1 total of 103.2 million units.

Analysts noted that the market for smartphones in China, as in many other nations, has gone flat as consumers have been reluctant to trade in their current handsets for new models.

"China is oftentimes thought of as an emerging market but the reality is that the vast majority of phones sold in China today are smartphones, similar to other mature markets like the US, UK, Australia, and Japan," explained IDC China managing director Kitty Fok.

"Just like these markets, convincing existing users as well as feature phone users to upgrade to new smartphones will now be the key to further growth in the China market."

Over the coming months, IDC analysts expect China to see increased competition in the high-end handset market as vendors seek to move up into more lucrative price tiers.

Additionally, the analyst house believes many domestic Chinese vendors will try to compensate for the flat market by looking to international expansion and taking their products into untapped markets. ®


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