China’s smartphone market grows for 1st time in 5 years

Smartphone shipments in China climbed for the first time in five years in 2021 after a coronavirus-induced plunge the year before.

Shipments increased 1.1% to 329.3 million units, according to U.S. market researcher IDC.

Vivo overtook Huawei Technologies to claim the crown for the first time. Vivo shipped 71 million units, up 23.3%, while its market share expanded 3.8 percentage points to 21.5%.

Vivo offers a broad array of phones, with its X series as the flagship. The company grew sales online and in midrange to high-end devices.

Second-ranked Oppo shipped 67.1 million units, up 18.3%. Xiaomi came in third at 51.1 million, a 31% increase. At fourth-ranked Apple, shipments increased 39.5% to 50.3 million units.

Huawei dropped out of the top five altogether after four straight years as No. 1, hurt by export controls tightened by the U.S. in September 2020.

The restrictions caused Huawei difficulty in procuring chips, hampering production. Huawei’s 2021 numbers also took a hit from the divestment of the low-end Honor brand, announced in November 2020 to address U.S. sanctions.

Honor took fifth place in 2021, with its shipments rising 4.9% to 38.6 million units.

For the fourth quarter alone, smartphone shipments in China shrank 3.5% to 83.4 million units. Shipments have undershot year-earlier numbers for three straight quarters.

“Although the Chinese market grew slightly in 2021, there are still no signs of improvement in terms of consumer demand in the short term,” IDC research manager Xi Wang said in a news release. “Thus, challenges will remain in 2022.”


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