Apple challenged by slowing iPhone sales in urban China, upgrades to Android in U.S.

Sales of the iPhone over the three-month period through January have slowed in urban China to their lowest levels since late 2014, according to new data from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech. Which is more bad news for Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) in a sagging global smartphone market.

"Looking at the three months individually, January was the weakest month for Apple in China as more price-sensitive consumers might have been waiting to see what promotions Chinese New Year would bring in early February," said Carolina Milanesi, Kantar's chief of research. "In the rest of the world, smartphone platform dynamics remained pretty stable period-over-period, with no surprises."

Apple remains the most popular brand in China, claiming 25 percent of all smartphone sales in the massive market thanks largely to demand for the iPhone 6 line. But Huawei is threatening its dominance, claiming 24.3 percent of sales during the period, while Xiaomi has seen its share drop 10.2 percent year-over-year.

And feature phone users in the U.S. are far less inclined to upgrade to the iPhone than to Android handsets, which are often less expensive and more readily available through prepaid service providers, Milanesi added.

"In the U.S., the battle to persuade feature phone owners to upgrade to a smartphone was won by Android, which saw nearly a third (30.6 percent) of sales come from that segment, compared to 13.7 percent for iOS," she wrote. "Carrier choice also suggests a more value-driven consumer, with TracFone Wireless and MetroPCS among the top five carriers chosen."

Interestingly, Kantar's data is echoed in the form of a new chart created by Deutsche Bank based on research from IDC. As reported by Business Insider, the graphic illustrates that sales of the iPhone typically under-perform the smartphone market as a whole. Like most of its competitors, Apple will increasingly be challenged in a worldwide market where growth has slowed to single digits.

For more information:
- see this Kantar blog post
- read this Business Insider report

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