Apple leads China smartphone market, overtakes Xiaomi

Apple has overtaken Xiaomi to become the largest vendor of smartphones in the China telecom market for the first time, said IDC on Monday.

Apple grabbed 14.7 percent of the market share in the first quarter of 2015, surpassing Xiaomi, which had a 13.7-percent share, according to market researcher International Data Corporation (IDC).

The two companies were followed by state-owned Huawei, Samsung and Lenovo, Xinhua reported citing the data.

The top spot in China’s smartphone market, which is one of the world’s largest but also one of its most fiercely competitive, has been occupied by four different companies in the past five quarters. Samsung and Lenovo have also topped the list.

Apple, Xiaomi, Huawei, Samsung and Lenovo took up 57.8 percent of the market in the January-March period.

While Apple, Xiaomi and Huawei saw shipments increase during this time, Samsung and Lenovo suffered substantial declines, according to the data.

A total of 98.8 million smartphones were shipped, 4.3 percent fewer than in the first quarter of 2014. This was the first such drop in over six years, suggesting the market may be reaching saturation point after several quarters of over 20 percent growth.

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The market entered a period of adjustment in the first quarter as companies’ inventories piled up due to intense competition, Wang Jiping, director of IDC’s China branch, said.

Meanwhile, the Chinese smartphone market, which has surpassed the US to become the world’s largest in 2011, is witnessing a slowdown, the Wall Street Journal has reported.

According to a new survey by the global market research firm International Data Corp, smartphone shipments in China fell 4.3 percent in the first quarter compared with a year ago for the first time in six years.

The slowdown is largely driven by the disappearance of China’s first-time buyers, the survey said.

In the first quarter, Apple became China’s largest smartphone maker by market share, surpassing Xiaomi on the strength of its popular iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.

Samsung has fallen to fourth place in China in the first quarter, from the top spot a year ago. Coolpad Group Ltd. was China’s No. 5 smartphone maker last year on the strength of budget phones but fell out of the top five in the first quarter, according to IDC.

According to Tom Kang, research director with market-research firm Counterpoint, “China is now a replacement market”.

The slowdown has major implications not only for Apple and Samsung as well as China’s homegrown phone makers like Xiaomi Corp.

“The smartphone market in China is basically now just the very high end like Apple or the very low end. It is getting tough for those in the middle,” Charles Lin, chief financial officer of Pegatron Corp which manufactures smartphones for Apple and some Chinese brands, was quoted as saying.

Xiaomi, started five years ago, is now valued at $46 billion. Last week, it unveiled Note Pro, a phone about the size of the iPhone 6 Plus and costing about $480.

“We will keep pursuing our mission to make high-quality, high-performance phones at affordable prices for our customers,” a Xiaomi spokeswoman was quoted as saying in the report.

“While there are signs that the explosive growth of smartphones in China will slow this year, the vast majority of China’s 885 million mobile users are using low-end and mid-range smartphones,” Samsung said in a statement.

“This leaves plenty of room for upgrades to high-end phones as China’s market matures,” it added.