China’s Smartphone Market Turns Corner in Q1 2021; 5G Takes Center Stage While vivo, OPPO Jostle For Top Spot

Boston, Toronto, London, New Delhi, Beijing, Taipei, Seoul – April 29, 2021

Smartphone shipment growth in China turned positive in Q1 2021, growing 36% compared to last year’s COVID-impacted first quarter to register 90.7mn shipments, according to Counterpoint Research’s China Market Monitor Report, Q1 2021.

The quarter marked the inevitable succession of Huawei’s leadership, as the beleaguered handset maker struggled to maintain shipments. vivo and OPPO emerged as clear leaders, accounting for nearly half of all smartphones shipped during the period.

Counterpoint Research - China Smartphone Shipments Share Q1 2021
Source: Counterpoint Research China Market Monitor, Q1 2021.

*Huawei doesn’t include Honor

Commenting on the market’s recovery, Senior Analyst Yang Wang states, “It should be noted that last year was an anomaly, so the YoY growth figure needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Nevertheless, it’s a solid number and up by a percent from Q1 2019, so that’s a big positive. A major driver of growth has been 5G, with consumers looking to upgrade especially during the Chinese New Year shopping season. Vendors with the right product portfolios have done well – and here vivo and OPPO managed to tip the scale in their favor both in terms of shipments and sales.”

Q1 also saw the launch of new flagship models by several vendors. Powered by a new generation of 5G chipsets, phones came with better imaging, display, connectivity and charging standards across the board. Wang adds, “vivo’s strategic partnership with Carl Zeiss and the launch of its X60 Series flagship in December helped enhance its brand image ahead of an important Q1. OPPO also got off to a quick start, mainly due to successful repositioning of its Reno series. Overall, higher spec 5G devices at lower price points were very well received by consumers.”

China’s top spot is expected to be highly contested by vivo and OPPO with vivo leading the quarter. Wang observes, “With close to three quarters of its portfolio now made up of 5G devices focused on strong camera capabilities and a great balance of specs vs cost, vivo is capitalizing on Huawei’s weakness and expanding to take share in the domestic premium segment.”

Looking forward, Wang observes, “Moving into Q2 and the latter half of the year we expect supply could become an issue as we’re seeing continued tightness in key components like display drivers and power management chips. The brands that can manage their supply chains best will be able to capitalize on share growth opportunities. Looking at inventory levels over the past two quarters, vivo and OPPO look strong from that standpoint.”


Counterpoint Technology Market Research is a global research firm specializing in products in the TMT (technology, media and telecom) industry. It services major technology and financial firms with a mix of monthly reports, customized projects and detailed analyses of the mobile and technology markets. Its key analysts are seasoned experts in the high-tech industry.


Charles Moon

Yang Wang

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