Chinese smartphone market grows 19% in Q4, IDC says

Chinese smartphone vendors are capitalizing on a thriving market in their back yard that continues to gain steam, according to fresh data from IDC.

The market research firm said the smartphone market in China saw 19% growth year-over-year in 2016, and growth in the fourth quarter grew 17% over the same period last year. The top five Chinese vendors saw their share of their home market grow from 46% in 2015 to 57% in 2016, and Oppo topped all vendors, claiming 18.1% of the market in the fourth quarter.

Huawei was the second-largest smartphone seller in China during the latest quarter, accounting for 16.9% of the market. Vivo, which is also based on China, claimed 16% of the market, up from 11% during the prior year.

“Increased dependence on mobile apps has led to consumers to seek phone upgrades, thus helping drive the large growth in 2016 Q4,” IDC analyst Tay X Iahoan said in a press release. “In lower-tiered cities, there was a similar demand by consumers, which Oppo and Vivo met by aggressively pushing mid-range smartphones in these cities.”

And while Apple rocketed by Samsung to become the world’s top smartphone seller in the fourth quarter, the iPhone maker lost ground in China. The iPhone accounted for 11% of smartphone shipments in China during the fourth quarter, down from 17.1% during the same period a year ago, and Apple’s market share for all of 2016 was 9.6%, IDC estimated, down from 13.6% in 2015.

Apple continues to see its market share dwindle in the world’s largest smartphone market. Its share of the Chinese market slid by more than a third in the third quarter of 2016, according to IDC, as China-based vendors came to dominate the space.

The iPhone seller is likely to rebound with the expected release of a new flagship handset later this year, though.

“2016 was the first time ever that Apple saw a year-over-year decline in the (Chinese) market,” IDC said. “Even though the new black-colored iPhones caught the attention of consumers, overall, the new launches did not create as much of a frenzy compared to the past. Despite the decline, IDC does not believe Chinese vendors have actually eaten away at Apple’s market share. Most Apple users are expected to be holding out for the new iPhone that will be launched this year, and that will help the brand to see growth in 2017.”