Huawei passes Apple to be No. 2 smartphone vendor—for now: Counterpoint

Huawei (Flickr)
Huawei has cemented its status as one of the world's largest smartphone vendors.

Huawei surpassed Apple to become the world’s second-largest smartphone vendor in June and July, according to fresh data from Counterpoint Technology Market Research. And it may have beaten the iPhone vendor in August as well.

But holding onto that claim for the rest of the year will be tough.

“This is a significant milestone for Huawei, the largest Chinese smartphone brand with a growing global presence,” Counterpoint Research Director Peter Richardson said in a press release. “It speaks volumes for this primarily network infrastructure vendor on how far it has grown in the consumer mobile handset space in the last three to four years. The global scale Huawei has been able to achieve can be attributed to its consistent investment in R&D and manufacturing, coupled with aggressive marketing and sales channel expansion.”

Indeed, Huawei is the most visible of several Chinese manufacturers that have gained significant momentum worldwide over the last 18 months. Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo all leveraged the booming Chinese smartphone market, and they’ve made inroads in emerging markets like India.

The company will be hard-pressed to hold onto the No. 2 spot through a particularly competitive holiday shopping season, however. Apple is widely expected to introduce a redesigned iPhone phone next week and Google is set to launch a second-generation Pixel, while Samsung recently unveiled the Galaxy Note 8 and Sprint recently began taking preorders for the first phone from Andy Rubin’s Essential Products.

Huawei’s success comes despite a conspicuous lack of support from U.S. carriers. The company recently introduced its latest flagship, the Honor 9, in China and some European markets, among other regions, but it has no plans to bring the phone to U.S. consumers. Sprint was the only major U.S. operator selling any Huawei phones when the Honor 8 was introduced last year, although no Huawei handsets are listed on the carrier’s site currently.

Huawei must expand its presence in the United States and some other major markets beyond its home turf if it is to continue to gain ground, Counterpoint said.

“While this streak could be temporary considering the annual iPhone refresh is just around the corner, it nevertheless underscores the rate at which Huawei has been growing,” Richardson said. “However, a weak presence in the South Asian, Indian and North American markets limits Huawei’s potential in the near- to mid-term to take a sustainable second-place position behind Samsung. Huawei is over-dependent on its home market China where it enjoys the leadership position and operator-centric markets in Europe, Latin America and (the) Middle East.”