China’s Smartphone Market in 2020 Logs Sharpest Decline in 3 Years

  • China’s smartphone market declined 17% YoY in 2020.
  • China’s 5G smartphone sales accounted for more than 60% of total smartphone sales in Q4 2020.
  • Huawei and HONOR combined took the top spot in the market, capturing 41% share in 2020.
  • Apple was the only brand to witness a positive YoY growth in the market in 2020.

Beijing, Hong Kong, New Delhi, Seoul, London, San Diego, Buenos Aires – January 28, 2021

China’s overall smartphone sales declined 17% YoY in 2020, the sharpest decline in the last three years, according to the latest research from Counterpoint’s Market Pulse – Monthly Smartphone Sales Tracking service.

Commenting on the market dynamics, Research Analyst Mengmeng Zhang said, “Though China recovered quickly from COVID-19, the overall demand for smartphones in the market remained weak and below the pre-pandemic levels. A weakened economy and longer smartphone replacement cycles all contributed to the lackluster demand. However, China’s 5G smartphone sales surged with Chinese OEMs aggressively rolling out more value-for-money offerings. 5G penetration rate became even more pronounced in Q4 with the launch of iPhone 12. 5G smartphones accounted for more than 60% of smartphones sold in China, up from just 5% in Q4 2019.”

Exhibit 1: Smartphone Shipment Market Share and Growth, 2020

Counterpoint Research-Smartphone Shipment Market Share and Growth, 2020
Source: Counterpoint Monthly Smartphone Market Pulse

Commenting on the competitive landscape, Research Analyst Flora Tang said, “Huawei and HONOR combined were still the market leader in China’s market, capturing 41% share in 2020. However, following component shortages after the US trade sanctions effective September 15, sales of Huawei and HONOR dropped a staggering 26% YoY in Q4 2020. Their combined market share also slipped to 32% in the same quarter.”

Among major OEMs, Apple was the only one to enjoy a positive YoY growth in 2020. Apple’s strong growth was due to the debut of iPhone 12 series, which comes with 5G connectivity and models across a wider price range. In addition, thanks to heavy price cuts and promotions, the iPhone 11 series continued to do well even after the launch of iPhone 12s. The iPhone 11 was the best-selling model on during the e-commerce festival sales. The impressive growth of both iPhone 12 and iPhone 11 series helped push Apple’s market share in China to 16% in Q4 2020.

Exhibit 2: Smartphone Shipment Market Share and Growth, Q4 2020

Counterpoint Research -Smartphone Shipment Market Share and Growth, Q4 2020
Source: Counterpoint Monthly Smartphone Market Pulse

Xiaomi registered a double-digit decline of 14% YoY in 2020, but still outperformed the market. Xiaomi‘s sales rebounded strongly starting H2 2020 on good performance of the Redmi 9A, Redmi Note 9 Pro, Xiaomi 10 series and Redmi K30 series. Xiaomi also benefitted from the weakening performance of its major rival HONOR.

OPPO and vivo sales declined in 2020 following the overall market trend. Nonetheless, OPPO had its strongest quarter in Q4, increasing 9% compared to Q3 on strong momentum from the OPPO A32, A72 and Reno 5 series. The new Reno 5 series (Reno 5, Reno Pro and Reno 5 Pro +) has been the best-performing Reno series since its rebranding, selling close to 1 million units in 12 days. OPPO’s strategy to reposition the Reno series as its mid-to-high end offering catering to more customers has started to pay off.

You can also visit our Data Section (updated quarterly) to view the smartphone market share Globally and for the USChina and India.


Counterpoint Technology Market Research is a global research firm specializing in products in the TMT 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 experts in the high-tech industry with an average tenure of 13 years.

Analyst Contacts:

Mengmeng Zhang

Flora Tang

Ethan Qi

Tarun Pathak

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Related Posts

China smartphones Q2 2017: Samsung, Apple Slip as Domestic Brands Rule

Smartphones shipments in China grew a modest 3% annually during Q2 2017 (Apr-Jun), registering second consecutive quarter of annual growth this year. The Chinese market showed a positive uptick in demand as well as supply during the June ending quarter. June seasonally is a strong month for China as it is usually buoyed by portfolio upgrades from major brands such as Oppo, vivo and Xiaomi. The top four Chinese brands now capture close to 69% of the market as these brands have raced ahead of international and other local brands with expansive distribution reach and exciting portfolio.

Huawei and vivo were the fastest growing brands followed by OPPO and Xiaomi, together cementing the top four spots and extending their lead over Apple and Samsung by a widening margin. Apple’s performance continue to be seasonal, while Samsung is losing out to the Oppo-Vivo onslaught in offline. Xiaomi made a surprise comeback after being on decline for a few quarters against Huawei Honor.

Exhibit 1: % Smartphone Shipment Growth for OEMs in Q2 2017

As predicted, last quarter, the Chinese smartphone market saw a healthy sell-out through April, May of the second quarter with some level of inventory correction allowing the Chinese brands to ship more smartphones in June with a revamped portfolio.

Exhibit 2: % OEM Smartphone Shipment Share in Q2 2017

Source: Market Monitor – Q2 2017preliminary estimates

Huawei continued to capture the top spot this quarter ahead of rivals OPPO and vivo, shipping higher volumes into the channels. Huawei’s nova, enjoy series along with flagship P10 were in strong demand during the quarter.

OPPO and vivo were able to also grow significantly over last year with strong performance in mid-tier with A and Y series respectively as well as with F/R and V/X series in high-tier respectively. Each of the series are well positioned in the fast-growing $100-$199 (600-1300 rmb) and affordable premium $300-$399 (2000-2700 rmb) segments catering demand from tier-1 cities to tier-4 towns.

Meanwhile, Xiaomi saw a positive uptick growing 20% YoY and almost doubling the volumes sequentially after a dip in Q1 2017 when the vendor’s volumes reached almost 2013 levels. The key reason behind the comeback can be attributed to strong demand for its latest flagship Mi 6 and low-tier models such as Redmi 4X as well as focus on diversifying distribution channels.

The days of easy growth are over for Huawei, OPPO, vivo and Xiaomi in China. The competitive landscape is converging as all the top four Chinese brands have reached a steady and dominant position in a very slow growing market. The race for the top two spots is always up for grabs as one misstep can push a brand easily two spots behind.

The comeback of Xiaomi from the declining spiral has made the market further competitive and almost a zero-sum game. The dip in performance by either of brand could affect their global performance. As a result, China dependent brands such as OPPO, vivo and Xiaomi will be aggressive in expanding their reach beyond China during the second half of this year. India, South Asia and Africa will be the key focus geographies to drive additional scale and market share to make up any dip in domestic market.

Market Monitor : Q2 2014: China, LTE & Smartphones

Our latest Market Monitor Q2 2014 is out for clients and its very interesting to witness how rapidly the mobile devices landscape is changing  every quarter from fierce competitive landscape to faster new technologies penetration to evolving device form-factors to OEMs struggling to catch up with each others on product portfolio, go-to market and pricing strategies. China remains the bright spot for entire mobile phone value chain and crux of all the growth.

The major trends coming out of our China specific research is highlighted below:

  • Global smartphone market grew to a record all-time-high shipment volumes surpassing 300 million units in Q2 2014 surpassing the Q4 2013 holiday season surge
  • Smartphone shipments now account to 70% of all mobile phone shipped during the quarter, highest ever
  • China was the big factor this quarter clocking record high smartphone shipments, more than 100 million units
  • China now accounts to more than a third of the global smartphone volumes up from a fourth, eight quarters ago
  • The major growth in China is as a result of unparalleled demand for smartphones, almost 94% of the total phones shipped compared to the US where smartphone still represents 88% of the total phones shipped in Q2 2014
  • During the quarter, LTE was one of the big factor driving smartphone volumes and the LTE phenomenon is just getting started in China
  • Within three quarters or so, China has raced to become the second largest market globally in terms of LTE smartphone volumes, almost a fourth of global LTE volumes and almost non-existent LTE volumes in the same quarter a year ago
  • We predict China will overtake USA as the number one LTE market in terms of LTE smartphone sales in the second half of 2014
  • While Apple & Samsung dominated the global LTE smartphone market with more than 57% share combined, situation in China is changing fast
  • Coolpad became the top supplier of LTE smartphones in China during the quarter surpassing Samsung & Apple followed by growing tail of Chinese OEMs
  • OEMs are launching five-mode TDD&FDD LTE ready smartphones through open channels alongside cheaper three-mode TDD-LTE only smartphones for China Mobile Network
  • The LTE volume ramp up in China is as a result of local OEMs benefiting from the strong supply-chain dynamics locally
  • There are now more than 250 LTE models being sold in China wit h average selling prices already hitting close to 1000 yuan which should help China Mobile allocate less subsidies to keep the LTE momentum going and achieve its target 50 million subscriber mark this year easily
  • Qualcomm was the key beneficiary and driver so far in the China LTEscape and will continue to dominate mid- to premium-tier
  • However, MediaTek will be the key driver here moving forward with its LTE solutions being adopted with fast-growing brands such as Lenovo, Xiaomi, will be disruptive in sub-1500 yuan LTE segment
  • Watch out for Xiaomi and Lenovo in coming quarters with their aggressive LTE play to put pressure on Coolpad and Huawei whereas Apple with larger screen LTE iPhones will put pressure on Samsung in the premium segment

To summarize, this quarter it was all about China LTE smartphones and Chinese OEMs ramping up. Though replicating similar LTE growth in Western markets is going to be challenging but will still enjoy the scale in their domestic market.

The comprehensive and in-depth series of Q2 2014 Market Monitor reports is available for Counterpoint’s paid clients. Please feel free to reach out to us at for further questions regarding our in-depth latest research, insights or press enquiries.

China Q2 2014 LTE Smartphones Share - Market Monitor - Counterpoint Research

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