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Phone the rich: Premium handsets sole survivors of slump in India, China

Market shifts from volume-driven to value-driven

Worldwide mobile phone shipments continue to decline, but India and China, two of Asia's major economies, are bucking the trend when it comes to premium handsets.

This month tech analyst Canalys revealed that sales to retailers, distributors and similar fell by 17 percent in the last quarter of 2022 as many worked to clear existing inventory in preparation for a continued spending slowdown.

Last week IDC declared that smartphone shipments declined 18.3 percent year over year to 300.3 million units in Q4 2022, the largest ever drop in a single quarter and down 11.3 percent for the year.

The 1.2 billion units shipped in 2022 represent the least since 2013. But in India, the decline was below the overall trend at only 9 percent year on year, according to Counterpoint Research.

Counterpoint Research attributed the fall – only India's second in the smartphone market – to waning market performance of entry-level and budget segments, thanks to both lowered demand and supply chain constraints.

Meanwhile, its premium segment, defined as smartphones costing roughly more than $365, contributed the highest ever to market revenue at 35 percent.

Case in point: India's preferred premium handsets were Samsung products, which took 22 percent shipment value share, followed by Apple. Research analyst Shilpi Jain said the trend "implies that India's smartphone market is moving from being volume-driven to value-driven."

Counterpoint calculated China's smartphone sales decline at 14 percent, its lowest in a decade.

One exception to the Chinese trend is Apple, which only declined 3 percent in sales market share. By outperforming other brands in China, the iPhone maker was able oust Chinese brand Oppo to become the country's number two for the year, second only to Vivo. This feat was accomplished even though there were shortages of the iPhone 14.

Apple also performed well globally – IDC listed the company as accounting for just under a quarter of Q4 2022 market share and 18.8 percent for the year. This put the company second to Samsung globally for the year and highest for the quarter. ®

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