China Insights

Top five brands squeeze out challengers in China

Yaguang Liang

Consumer Insight Director of Kantar Worldpanel ComTech China

Mobile 08.12.2017 / 17:42

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In the three months by October, the top five brands – Huawei (including Honor), Xiaomi, Apple, Vivo and OPPO – make up 91% of sales in urban China, compared to 79% a year earlier.

Leading smartphone brands have tightened their grip of urban China market. In the three months ending October 2017, the top five brands – Huawei (including sub-brand Honor), Xiaomi, Apple, Vivo and OPPO – made up 91% of smartphone sales in urban China, compared to 79% a year earlier, according to the latest smartphone OS data from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech.

China, a market once overrun with new challengers, is maturing.

“Chinese challenger brands like Meizu, LeTV, Coolpad, ZTE, and Lenovo were once on the same trajectory as like of Xiaomi, but any momentum they once had has abruptly stopped, with many struggling to get past a 1% share,” said Dominic Sunnebo, Global Business Unit Director for Kantar Worldpanel ComTech. “Samsung’s performance in China continues to deteriorate, with its share now down to just 2.2% of that market.”

Kantar Worldpanel ComTech carries out monthly panel surveys among Chinese urban mobile phone users to monitor the market share changes of various brands. In China, the panel size is 22,000. Panellists were recruited from tier-1 to 5 cities and each year more than 260,000 surveys were conducted. The nature of the research methodology means it can cover the influence of smartphones sold in other countries ended up in China and avoid the confusion caused by unsold phones stocked at warehouses of distributors.

Digging deeper into the data, we can see that Xiaomi and Honor both realized significant growth in August – October period. Xiaomi’s sales market share jumped to 20.1%, 1 percentage point higher than in the May – July circle. However, due to its previously lacklustre performance, currently only 13.8% of all urban smartphone users are using Xiaomi, 2.1 percentage points lower than a year ago.

Honor’s share was 11.7% in August – October, also 1 percentage point higher than in May – July circle. Among all urban smartphone users, 9.8% are using Honor, 1.3 percentage points higher than a year ago.

Among the top 20 best-selling models during August – October period, eight are from Xiaomi or Honor.

Even though “price” is the biggest advantage of both brands when people making their purchasing decision, Xiaomi and Honor have both managed to achieve higher selling prices. Between August and October, the average selling price of Xiaomi models is 1,640.32 yuan, 321.96 yuan higher than a year ago; that of Honor phones is 2,136.66 yuan, 506.53 yuan higher than a year ago.

It’s a bitter sweet period for Apple. Urban China remained a bright spot for Apple, with its share edging up 0.5 percentage point in the latest three months to reach 17.4%.

But globally, iOS share fell in key markets, making clear the impact of the flagship iPhone X not being available to buy in the month of October.

Dominic said: “It was somewhat inevitable that Apple would see volume share fall once we had a full comparative month of sales taking into account the non-flagship iPhone 8 vs. the flagship iPhone 7 from 2016. This decrease is significant and puts pressure on the iPhone X to perform.

“Considering the complete overhaul that the iPhone X offers, consumers may be postponing their purchase decisions until they can test the iPhone X and decide whether the higher price, compared to the iPhone 8, is worth the premium to them,” he said.

He added: “As of October 2017, 35.3% of Apple’s installed base customers across Europe and the United States had owned their iPhones for more than two years – up from 30.1% a year earlier and signifying considerable pent-up demand within Apple’s base. In pure value terms, it is likely the iPhone X average selling price will more than make up for a dip in sales of older iPhone models.”

Source: Kantar Worldpanel

Editor's notes

* About Kantar Worldpanel ComTech’s Smartphone OS Market Share Data

Kantar Worldpanel ComTech’s smartphone OS market share data provides the media and businesses with access to the most up-to-date sales and market share figures for the major smartphone operating systems. To watch an interactive data viz, please click here;

This information is based on research extracted from the Kantar Worldpanel ComTech global consumer panel. ComTech is the largest continuous consumer research mobile phone tracking panel of its kind in the world, conducting over one million interviews per year in Europe alone. ComTech tracks mobile phone behaviour – including phone purchases, bills/airtime, source of purchase, and usage. It also delivers additional data to promote an understanding of the drivers of share changes, and consumer insight market dynamics. All consumer data in this release excludes enterprise sales.

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