A Record 28% of All Smartphones Were Sold Through Online Channel in Q4 2018 in China

JD is the top online platform for smartphone sales with 50% channel share
Honor overtakes Xiaomi to become the leading brand by sales volume in the online channel.

New Delhi, Hong Kong, Seoul, London, Beijing, San Diego, Buenos Aires
Mar 17th, 2019

China’s online channel contribution to total smartphone sales in China increased to 28% in Q4 2018 from 25% in Q3 2018, according to the latest research from Counterpoint’s Smartphone Channel Share Tracker., Alibaba’s Tmall, Suning continued to be the preferred channels for online smartphone purchases. The three portals together accounted for more than 80% of the total smartphones sold in online channels.

Commenting on the growing role of e-tailers for smartphone sales in China, James Yan, Research Director at Counterpoint Research commented, “Smartphone sales in online channels in China are dominated by Jingdong (JD) and Tmall. JD has become a de-facto platform to purchase smartphones online. JD’s greater focus on consumer electronics, computers, and communications, which is dubbed as its 3C strategy, has helped it gain mindshare compared to rivals. is also known to work very closely with different smartphone OEMs to launch, promote and service the products selling on its platform. This has helped JD to dominate the online smartphone sales, which is one of the biggest GMV contributors with a 50% market share.”

Yan, added, “Tmall remained the second largest platform followed by Suning. Tmall gained from the Singles Day (11.11) sale which bumped up its market share in online channels during the quarter.”

Exhibit 1: Q4 2018 – China’s Smartphone Sales Share Through Online Channel by Platforms

While the traditional e-tailers continue to dominate, OEMs have been holding steady share selling through their own e-commerce portals. Counterpoint’s Research Analyst, MengMeng Zhang, noted, “Xiaomi, Honor, and Apple remain the most successful brands to attract consumers to buy from their own portals and own that direct relationship which is key to cross-sell accessories, services, and other products. For example, this is the key go-to-market strategy for Xiaomi to drive its hardware ecosystem mode. It prefers selling online to help maintain the tighter margins.” In terms of OEMs share of the total sales in online channels, Honor topped the rankings with 24% of all smartphones sold online in China in Q4 2018 surpassing Xiaomi.

Exhibit 2: Q4 2018: China’s Smartphone OEM Market Share by Brand in Online Channel

The Chinese e-commerce business is constantly evolving with companies developing new business models for selling smartphones. Commenting on the new business models of Chinese e-commerce portals, Zhang said, “Interestingly, we are seeing a new type of e-commerce platform called Pinduoduo becoming popular through a social selling model. Consumers can get healthy discounts on products leveraging Pinduoduo’s team purchasing model where users can invite others through a social network and team-up to buy the products and obtain a bulk purchase discount. This is becoming popular especially for low-end models.”

While we believe that China has become one of the largest mobile e-commerce markets in terms of volumes, smartphone sales contribution through the online channel is still low compared to countries like India where 41% of smartphones are sold online. Flora Tang, Research Analyst at Counterpoint Research said, “The lack of infrastructure development and logistics network in rural parts of China makes ordering and delivering goods through e-commerce portals in certain regions difficult. E-commerce giants such as JD are seeking to counter this problem through developing drone delivery networks in rural areas.”

Tang added, “Another major reason for lower penetration rate for online smartphone sales in China, compared to India, is bigger discounts being offered in India. Further, platforms in India also attract buyers with online exclusive models. Nonetheless, we think that China’s online smartphone market has yet to realize its full potential and has great growth potential in the coming years.”

Despite heavy promotions during Singles’ Day and 12.12 e-commerce festival which led to growth in smartphones sold online during the quarter, the online channel growth failed to offset the overall decline in China’s smartphone market. During Q4 2018, the smartphone demand in China fell 14% year-on-year.

Market analysis:

  • In Q4 2018, the top four brands (Honor, Xiaomi, Apple and Huawei) account for 67% of the market share.
  • Honor became the leading online smartphone brand in China, capturing 24% of the market compared to Xiaomi a year ago which led this segment.
  • With the most aggressive promotions amongst all OEMs, Honor’s sales during Singles’ Day was especially strong, ranking first in terms of volume on both Tmall and JD and it even replaced Apple from the top spot in terms of value on for the first time.
  • Xiaomi ranked second in terms of market share. Nearly 20% of Xiaomi’s smartphones are sold on its own platform, higher than any other OEM. Building on a smartphone and IoT ecosystem strategy with a diversified portfolio of smartphones and IoT products, Xiaomi Mall serves as a convenient one-stop shop to purchase all Xiaomi products.
  • Traditionally offline brands, OPPO and Vivo, are also gaining more interest in the online space to develop new areas of growth amidst a weak market. Both Vivo and OPPO have launched their own online models, such as Vivo Z series and OPPO K1, and have done fairly well.

This analysis is extracted from our in-depth smartphone channel share tracker by OEM by model for China and available for subscribing clients at

Analyst Contacts:

Mengmeng Zhang

+86 18611804269

James Yan闫占

+86 15810182576


Tarun Pathak
+91 9971213665


Flora Tang

+852 5545 2529


Counterpoint Research


Counterpoint research is a young and fast growing research firm covering analysis of the tech industry. Coverage areas are connected devices, digital consumer goods, software & applications and other adjacent topics. We provide syndicated research reports as well as tailored. Our seminars and workshops for companies and institutions are popular and available on demand. Consulting and customized work on the above topics is provided for high precision projects.

Term of Use and Privacy Policy

Counterpoint Technology Market Research Limited


In order to access Counterpoint Technology Market Research Limited (Company or We hereafter) Web sites, you may be asked to complete a registration form. You are required to provide contact information which is used to enhance the user experience and determine whether you are a paid subscriber or not.
Personal Information When you register on we ask you for personal information. We use this information to provide you with the best advice and highest-quality service as well as with offers that we think are relevant to you. We may also contact you regarding a Web site problem or other customer service-related issues. We do not sell, share or rent personal information about you collected on Company Web sites.

How to unsubscribe and Termination

You may request to terminate your account or unsubscribe to any email subscriptions or mailing lists at any time. In accessing and using this Website, User agrees to comply with all applicable laws and agrees not to take any action that would compromise the security or viability of this Website. The Company may terminate User’s access to this Website at any time for any reason. The terms hereunder regarding Accuracy of Information and Third Party Rights shall survive termination.

Website Content and Copyright

This Website is the property of Counterpoint and is protected by international copyright law and conventions. We grant users the right to access and use the Website, so long as such use is for internal information purposes, and User does not alter, copy, disseminate, redistribute or republish any content or feature of this Website. User acknowledges that access to and use of this Website is subject to these TERMS OF USE and any expanded access or use must be approved in writing by the Company.
– Passwords are for user’s individual use
– Passwords may not be shared with others
– Users may not store documents in shared folders.
– Users may not redistribute documents to non-users unless otherwise stated in their contract terms.

Changes or Updates to the Website

The Company reserves the right to change, update or discontinue any aspect of this Website at any time without notice. Your continued use of the Website after any such change constitutes your agreement to these TERMS OF USE, as modified.
Accuracy of Information: While the information contained on this Website has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, We disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of such information. User assumes sole responsibility for the use it makes of this Website to achieve his/her intended results.

Third Party Links: This Website may contain links to other third party websites, which are provided as additional resources for the convenience of Users. We do not endorse, sponsor or accept any responsibility for these third party websites, User agrees to direct any concerns relating to these third party websites to the relevant website administrator.

Cookies and Tracking

We may monitor how you use our Web sites. It is used solely for purposes of enabling us to provide you with a personalized Web site experience.
This data may also be used in the aggregate, to identify appropriate product offerings and subscription plans.
Cookies may be set in order to identify you and determine your access privileges. Cookies are simply identifiers. You have the ability to delete cookie files from your hard disk drive.