Samsung and Apple dominate phone sales charts in North America, but that's not the case in other global markets. For instance, Samsung has less than a 1% market share in China, with the South Korean giant overshadowed by its Chinese counterparts. Apple fares slightly better, with the iPhone manufacturer amassing a 13% market share in Q3 2021 — a year-on-year increase of 48%.
Apple ended Q3 as the fifth-largest phone brand in China, but the introduction of the iPhone 13 turned the momentum in its favor; in October, it became the largest phone brand in the country, overtaking the best Android phones from Xiaomi, Honor, OPPO, and Vivo. October sales figures from Counterpoint show the scale of this achievement, with Apple going from a 13% share to 22% in the course of a month.
The launch of the iPhone 13 was the catalyst for the turnaround, but that alone isn't the reason. To find out more, I talked to Ivan Lam, a Senior Research Analyst at Counterpoint Research, to understand what's going on. Lam attributes the uptick in iPhone sales to three factors: a retail strategy that's finally taking off, Huawei's decline, and most of all, aggressive pricing.
"Huawei is continuing to lose ground in the high-end market, and while OPPO and Xiaomi are starting to focus on the high-end segment, they haven't made much headway," said Lam. For some context, Huawei was the outright leader in China's phone segment in Q3 2020 with a 30% market share, and that figure now stands at a meager 8%. The U.S. trade ban has effectively killed off Huawei's business even in its home market, with the brand unable to access the latest technology.
Kiranjeet Kaur, an Associate Research Director at IDC APAC, notes that Apple positioned itself ideally to fill the void left by Huawei as it has a better brand image in the premium segment (over $600) than its Android rivals. "In other words, there is lesser competition for iPhone 13 series this year," said Kaur.
Kaur said that another change this year is a "favorable pricing strategy" for the iPhone 13 that included launching the phone at a lower price point than the iPhone 12, invigorating sales. The groundwork for this move was laid last year, when Apple started allowing iPhones to be sold at online storefronts, giving e-commerce stores the ability to heavily subsidize the iPhone 12 for this year's holiday sale season. Enticing discounts for the iPhone 12 combined with aggressive pricing for the iPhone 13 created the ideal situation for Apple in China.