Huawei loses smartphone market lead in China

Oppo and Apple are on the rise in China as the country's most famous provider continues to fall

The Huawei Mate 40 Pro

Huawei is not only losing ground in Europe, as its share of the smartphone market in China is also shrinking.

That's according to Counterpoint Research, which revealed that rival Chinese brand Oppo overtook Huawei to become the number one provider in China for 2020's fourth quarter after claiming 21% of the smartphone market.

Huawei was just 1% behind, but it has seen a gradual fall from the top ever since it was hit by US sanctions that banned American firms, such as Google and Qualcomm, from selling their products to the Chinese firm.

Counterpoint's senior analyst Varun Mishra puts Oppo's success down to changing its pricing strategy, but he also points to Huawei's fall. 

"The rebranding of the Reno series and launching a more capable device at a lower price point than its predecessor helped Oppo capture the affordable premium segment," Mishra said. "The strong momentum of the A series in the mid-segment strengthened the product portfolio for Oppo and it was able to cater to the 5G demand in China across a wide price band. This was further helped by the decline of Huawei."

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It has been well documented that Huawei can not use the full version of Google's Android and its smartphones are being shipped in Europe without various popular apps. But another issue is the lack of access to semiconductors and other components needed for mobile 5G technologies which is resulting in a more gradual sales decline in the Chinese market. 

This could be one of the reasons for the recent sale of the Honor brand, which automatically took some of Huawei's market share with it, and why the firm has been launching fewer models in recent months.

Counterpoint suggests that a depleting inventory of components has forced Huawei to focus more on the "premium" categories with more elite products, such as the Mate X2 and the P40 Pro. This has, it suggests, has created a gap in the middle tier of the Chinese smartphone market. 

Over 65% of devices sold in China in Q4 were 5G-ready with the likes of Oppo, Xiaomi and Vivo taking share away from former market leader Huawei. Apple also made it into the top five list after growing its market share from 9% in December to 16%. 

Huawei's decline is estimated to continue in 2021, with other mid-range models set to fill the gaps it is leaving. 

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