The Top 10 Best-Selling Smartphones in China and the World in 2018

The global economy was in turmoil in 2018. Both the global and the Chinese manufacturing industry were suffering, and trade growth slowed down. Not surprisingly, even the smartphone market underwent a series of fluctuations. A surge in the prices of storage components came back to normal at the end of the year. Similarly, sales slowed down drastically in the second half of the year. In the meantime, the newly launched iPhone products gave up on innovation to chase greater value. Affected by the overall economic downturn and the declining attractiveness of products, consumers decided to delay upgrading their mobile phones. As a global third-party technology research company, Counterpoint has closely observed the developments and changes in the smartphone market in 2018. So, what how did smartphones fare in such a harsh environment? Which are the brands/products that stood out in China and the global market and won the hearts of consumers? Which flagship products joined the top 10 best-selling list? How are they performing? The following are the takeaways and insights based on Counterpoint’s Market Pulse service which will answer these questions.

Let us start with China first. It is the largest smartphone market in the world, and 2018 was a tough year. Here’s a detailed analysis of the top 10 best-selling models list for 2018 in China:2018 China Smartphone Top 10 Model Sales Market ShareData source: Counterpoint Market Pulse 2018

  • Although Huawei (including HONOR) led the smartphone market by sales in 2018, five models from OPPO made it to the top 10 best-selling list, indicating its strength. In fact, the best-selling smartphone in China during 2018 was OPPO’s R15 series mainly due to its sales cycle running from its launch in March 2018 to the end of 2018. Features such as the notch display, dual-camera, and a slim look also helped its popularity.
  • The OPPO A5 only debuted in the second half of 2018 but still entered the top three with average monthly sales of nearly two million units. According to Counterpoint’s research, as the Chinese economy continued to slow down in H2 2018, consumers were more pragmatic on upgrading their mobile phones. Their desire to buy smartphones below RMB 1,500 (roughly US$220) became even stronger. For them, the OPPO A5 with notch screen was worth the money.
  • Apple’s performance was similar to that of 2017, and two of its models entered the top 10. The models rank in the top 10 list was also similar to 2017. The iPhone X was still the absolute leader in the premium segment. Although its notch display faced criticism, iPhone X remained popular among consumers due to the overall experience and brand value. The iPhone 8 Plus ranked sixth and was a good interpretation of the Apple brand and system experience.
  • Vivo invested huge resources and efforts into marketing in 2018, such as sponsoring the World Cup soccer event. Two of its models secured a position in the top 10. The X21 entered the top five by sales. With an outstanding and larger screen-to-body ratio, the intelligent optimization of the camera, gaming, and tools by Jovi AI, the X21 brought a superior product experience. The Vivo Y85’s positioning is similar to the OPPO A5.
  • Xiaomi’s presence on the list was also the same as in 2017. Instead of Note 4X, only Redmi 5 Plus entered the top 10 and ranked the same as 2017. Although the Xiaomi models didn’t secure a position in the top 10, Xiaomi 8 series shipments reached nearly four million units and entered the top 30 with improvement in its camera.
  • Huawei and HONOR: Although they didn’t make into the top 10, six models ranked just outside the top 10. These products aimed at the low-, mid- and high-tier segments to form a group advantage. Huawei and HONOR had models such as the high-end P20 series, mid-end Huawei Nova2s, HONOR V10, and HONOR 10, as well as low-end HONOR 7X, HONOR 9 Youth Edition, and more.

In the global list of best-selling smartphones, Apple dominated the top 10. Here’s a closer look at how Apple and the devices from its competitors performed over the year:

2018 Global Smartphone Top 10 Model Sales Market ShareData source: Counterpoint Market Pulse 2018

  • Apple dominated the best-selling list capturing with six out of 10 spots. The iPhone X, the iPhone 8 and the iPhone 8 Plus, unveiled in 2017, together sold nearly 100 million units, while the newly launched iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR, each sold more than 16 million units. On the contrary, the new iPhone XS was in an awkward position in some markets and didn’t make into the top 10 list. Instead, the low-end Apple iPhone 7 was widely recognized in some countries as a good value proposition and saw strong performance.
  • Samsung‘s S9 and S9 Plus continued to gain traction in mature countries, especially in North America and Europe and entered the top 10 list. The Galaxy J6, priced at only around RMB 1,300 (roughly US$190), is still a hot selling model in emerging markets such as India and South East Asia.
  • For Xiaomi, Redmi is the biggest contributor to sales. As a core model, the Redmi 5A sold nearly 20 million units in 2018. It is capturing the low-end market like Indonesia and India with an affordable price (equivalent to only US$70). Although it didn’t enter the top 10, the Redmi Note 5 performed quite well.
  • Huawei has several best-selling models, such as P20 lite, which shipped more than 13 million units. However, it ranked just outside the top 10.
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