China, the most populous country in the world, is also the largest smartphone market in the world. The voracity for smartphones of the Chinese market has helped their in-house brands like Oppo, Xiaomi, Huawei, and others to grow rapidly and use the revenue generated to increase their influence outside China. But recent quarterly estimate and forecast data taken from Canalys’ Smartphone Analysis service has shown that the Chinese market is now nearing stagnation.
As reported in January 2018, China faced its first annual decline in the number of smartphones shipments. It went down from 478 million units in 2016 to 459 million units in 2017. That’s a decrease of 4%. While 4% may not feel like much but when you look at the number the 4% represents together with the fact that it is the first annual decrease the market has suffered, you will understand that it is a big deal. Also, the latest research from Canalys shows that smartphone shipments fell by 21% in the first quarter of 2018 compared to the first quarter sales of 2017 in China. The total number of smartphones shipped in Q1 of 2017 was 91 million units.
As reported by Canalys, 8 of the 10 largest smartphone manufacturer in China, in terms of the number of units sold, saw their sales decline. The shipments of Gionee, Meizu, and Samsung shrunk by more than 50% compared to the Q1 shipments of the previous year. Oppo and Vivo, the second and third most selling smartphones in China, also saw their shipments decline by 10%. However, Huawei, the number one smartphone manufacturer in China, saw a slight increase of 2% in its shipments.
The biggest winner, however, was Xiaomi, whose sales increased by more than 37% in the Q1 of 2018. This has toppled Apple to 5th place in market share, in terms of the number of units sold, as Xiaomi now takes the 4th position. Though that seems astounding, the big leap is in part due to the lackluster performance by Xiaomi in 2017.
So, the main question is, what does this mean for the smartphone market? Have smartphones been refined to the point that no smartphone is bad, they are just good and slightly better than each other? Is the time finally up for innovations in the smartphone market? Will the industry now move on to some other tech?
These are important questions to think about. These are the questions that push the tech industry towards new frontiers. But I feel that the death of smartphone is not going to be so soon. Especially with shipments in markets like India still continuing to grow and developing countries still just beginning to get engulfed in the smartphone revolution.
Maybe someday in the future, we may all be wearing smartglasses instead of carrying our phones, or maybe use microchips inside our brains with a radio receiver to communicate with each other but until that new tech comes around, we’ll never know. As of right now, smartphones are here to stay. And I am waiting for the One Plus 6 to arrive.
All the data in this article was taken from Canalys’ Smartphone Analysis Service. If you want to know more on this topic, click here.
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