China Insights

iPhone X tops best-seller list for 8th month, but crisis looming

Martin Guo

Editor-in-Chief, Kantar China Insights

Mobile 27.07.2018 / 18:00

Vivo 2 phone 2 col

Apple loses No.1 position in NPS ranking in China, replaced by Vivo.

iPhone X continued to be the top selling device, making up 5.3% of all handsets sold in urban China market, according to the Q2 data from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech. iPhone X has now been the best-selling model in China every month since its release in November 2017.  

But not all news is good for Apple in this quarter. Rather, its crisis is looming on the horizon. In this quarter, Apple has lost its long-held crown in Net Promoter Score ranking – it was replaced by Vivo.

Kantar Worldpanel’s research into accumulative data showed that NPS for smartphone brands in China would decline in line with the period of its usage.

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For example, in 2017, we could see NPS among new users (usage between 0 – 12 months) are high across almost all brands. But if the usage was 12 – 24 months by then, their NPS would become much lower. NPS usually dropped below 20, or even into negative territory, if the usage was between 24 – 36 months.

The decline of iPhone’s NPS was mostly because many users were still using its various older models – apparently Apple had failed in encouraging them to upgrade to its latest models.

The success of Vivo is mostly because the strong performances of X21 and X9.

The third-place competition is a game of tug-of-war between OPPO with R15 as its flagship model and Huawei (including Honor) with P20. Huawei was lagging behind due to under-par performance of Honor models.

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.

Liang Yaguang, Consumer Insight Director of Kantar Worldpanel ComTech China, said: “As the world’s largest smartphone market, China has seen smartphone penetration rate exceeding 90% in urban market and sales markedly slow. The major brands in China continue to squeeze out challengers, with Huawei, Apple, Xiaomi, OPPO and Vivo accounting for 87% of sales in the past three months, up from 80% a year ago.

“There will be no easy wins any more. The power and marketing budgets of the big four players in China are leaving less room for challengers to be heard,” he said. “If they want to make an impact, it’s imperative that they focus on targeting specific consumer segments, because a scattergun approach will not cut through.

“For tier-one brands, loyalty will become a make-or-break factor in the increasingly fierce competition. NPS is pivotal in gauging consumer loyalty. If a brand can have a complete consumer understanding of low NPS users of their competitors, they will find themselves in the driving seat.”

Though Huawei is under pressure in China, it is making breakthroughs in overseas markets and has become the major contributor to Android’s global growth.

In Q2, 2018, Android held 79.3% market share in five European markets (UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy), albeit 0.3 percentage point lower than the March – May circle. Android grew in United Kingdom, Italy, Japan and China, with the improved performance of Huawei a major factor in this success.

Dominic Sunnebo, Global Director for Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, comments: “Huawei has been making rapid progress in Europe over the past three years, but performance in Great Britain has been lacklustre. To counter this, the manufacturer has taken a dual-pronged approach, attacking the low-end market with its budget P Smart model and the top-end with the well-reviewed P20 Pro. The P20 flagship series has made a big impact in Britain, helping to lift Huawei’s share from only 2.7% a year ago to 13.7% in the past three months. A successful partnership with UK retailer Argos has helped both sides become major players in the lucrative British smartphone market.”

Apple’s iOS performed best in the United States, where a stellar three months helped shift market share up 5.9 percentage points to 38.7%. The iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus lead Apple’s sales, together accounting for nearly one in five smartphones sold, while iPhone X was the fourth best-selling device during the period. Samsung and LG have both felt the heat from Apple’s performance, seeing share fall over the year. 

Dominic said: “Apple continues to wield huge power in the US market, with iPhone models making up eight out of the 10 best-selling models in the past three months. Apple currently enjoys unprecedented depth across the smartphone price spectrum, ranging from the US$349 iPhone SE to the US$1,000 iPhone X; resulting in continued growth and hitting Samsung and LG hard.

“While Samsung is well represented at the premium end of the market with its S9 and Note series, and its budget orientated J series helps compete against LG, lack of depth in the mid-high tier is allowing Apple to find a new avenue for growth,” he concluded.

Source: Kantar Worldpanel

Editor's notes

* In the picture, Vivo X21 (left) and Vivo X9;

* 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.

For more information, please visit:

* To know more information, data and analysis of global and China's mobile market, please contact us.



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