More than one-fifth of smartphone sales evaporate in China as pandemic grips Middle Kingdom

Where's there a will, there Huawei! America's fave bogeyman does the biz at home, is the only handset maker to grow

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Huawei has emerged from China's COVID-19 ravaged smartphone sector in Q1 as the only handset maker to report a local sales bump - not a big one, but it's likely not complaining.

That's quite a feat considering the Chinese market actually declined 22 per cent year-on-year, during those three months, according to number cruncher CounterPoint Research.

Huawei's unit shipments grew by 6 per cent year-on-year to 28.7 million, causing its market share to swell from 29 per cent in the same period of 2019 to almost 40 per cent. By The Reg's estimation, total unit shipments in China thus sat at about 71.75 million in the quarter.

Out of its also-rans competition, Apple came out on top, with its sales declining 1 percent to 7.17 million — which in itself is a relatively decent showing, considering it was forced to shut its network of retail stores in Mainland China in late January.

Huawei's domestic Android-flinging rivals didn't fare nearly so well, with Vivo down 27 per cent, Oppo's sales plummeting 30 per cent to 12.18 million to 12.9 million, and Xiaomi struggling worst of all, with sales down 35 per cent to 6.45 million. Others made up the remainder.

Q1 saw much of China in an economic lockdown to stem the flow of COVID-19; the initial breakout of the disease was centred in the industrial city of Wuhan. Consequently, Chinese consumer spending declined steeply, which had a knock-on effect on non-essential purchases, like smartphone upgrades. There are exceptions to this, however.

Counterpoint suggests Huawei's fortune hinges on its decision to bet heavily on 5G devices. Sales in this category were up 120 per cent over the past year — undoubtedly due to the wider availability of them, and lower device costs. Nonetheless, Huawei was able to perform strongly here, in the process capturing over half of China's 5G smartphone sales.

"We've closely tracked the global 5G market and found that within 6 months after commercialisation of 5G in China, the penetration of 5G smartphone sales jumped to over 15 percent in Q1 2020," said Counterpoint Research analyst Mengmeng Zhang.

"Sales units of 5G smartphones grew by nearly 120% QoQ. The dominance of Huawei in China's 5G smartphone market was more evident — it contributed to over half of the total 5G phone sales in Q1, followed by Vivo, OPPO, and Xiaomi," she added.

Another factor cited by CounterPoint is Huawei's decision to cover all tiers of the smartphone market — from cheap-and-cheerful, to ultra-premium and the layer in between.

Ethan Qi, senior analyst, said: "[The Huawei Group] continued to lead and gained share with a complete product portfolio covering the entry-level to premium segments. Huawei Mate 30 5G, Mate 30 Pro 5G, Huawei Nova 6 5G, and HONOR 9X were all among the top-selling models list during the quarter."

The Register asked Huawei to comment but it declined. ®

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