iPhone Takes Top Spot in China for 1st Time Despite Challenges Even As iPhone 15 Facing headwinds

Apple iPhone was the top-selling smartphone series in China for the first time last year, a surprisingly strong showing in the face of fierce local competition and expanding government prohibitions against the American company’s technology. The iPhone ranked first in shipments in the fourth quarter and 2023 overall, market tracker IDC said. It came after several analysts, including Jefferies, said iPhone sales tanked in the fourth quarter due to a lull in enthusiasm for the Cupertino, California company’s latest generation of hardware in the world’s biggest smartphone market. IDC also noted rising competition from domestic names like a resurgent Huawei Technologies Co., but timely discounts and promotions helped reduce the harm for Apple. 

Success in the fourth quarter was largely a matter of declining less than competitors, the IDC data showed. For the year, Apple’s 2.2% drop in 2023 was better than local rivals like Honor Device Co. and Vivo — both of which suffered double-digit slumps — and the overall 5% fall in shipments.

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The year marked the lowest volume of smartphones in China in a decade, due to a soft economic recovery and weak consumer sentiment, according to IDC. It was also highlighted by Huawei’s return to prominence with its Mate 60 series, catapulting it back into the top five makers in China in the holiday quarter, with a 36% jump in shipments.

“Apple’s climb to the top spot in 2023, especially in light of renewed competition from Huawei and the soft spending sentiment, marks a tremendous success,” said IDC research analyst Arthur Gao. “Apple achieved this thanks to timely price promotions in its third-party channels, which stimulated demand.”

Apple also took the crown of the world’s biggest smartphone seller in 2023, after iPhone sales slumped less than Samsung Electronics Co.’s Galaxy smartphones. Still, the iPhone 15 family of products is facing headwinds in sustaining demand in China, where analysts forecast sales will continue to weaken.

Chinese agencies and government-backed companies ordered staff to stop bringing iPhones and other foreign devices to work, Bloomberg News reported in December, expanding prohibitions against such technologies in sensitive sectors.

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