Apple ChinaSource: Apple

What you need to know

  • Apple's iPhone shipments in China fell nearly 30% in Q3.
  • 5.1 million shipments marks a 28% drop compared to last year.
  • Apple's sales in the region have been impacted by anti-American sentiment stemming from the White House trade war and a ban on Huawei imports.

A report from Canalys via 9toMac today suggests that iPhone shipments in China fell by 28% in Q3 of 2019 in comparison to last year.

The research suggests that overall, China's smartphone market has shrunk by around 3% compared to last year, with Huawei extending its market lead in the region to 42.4%. In fact, Huawei shipped a whopping 41.5 million phones in Q3 2019, marking 66% annual growth compared to last year.

In contrast, Apple only shipped 5.1 million devices, down from 7.1 million this time last year. That marks a year on year fall of 28%, and a market share of just 5.2%. As 9to5Mac notes, Apple's struggles in China can in part be attributed to anti-American sentiment in the region stemming from the US-China trade war, as well as a ban on Huawei importing components into the US. As Canalys notes:

Apple maintained the number five position, thanks to the immediate boost of iPhone 11 launches in September, which accounted for nearly 40% of its Q3 shipments.

"Apple is more prepared than previous years to face strong headwinds in China." Commented Liu. "Its iPhone 11 models focused on camera improvements, which proved desirable to Chinese consumers. More importantly, a lower launch price of iPhone 11 and a more flexible channel margin structure for local distribution on the new devices, were critical market stimuli for Apple. But it faces a looming challenge, as Chinese vendors and operators are set to drive heavy marketing and promotions around 5G in the next two quarters. This could steal its thunder.

Of course, the reference to 5G could offer some insight into the drop in shipments. China has seen a higher adoption rate of 5G tech in terms of infrastructure compared to the rest of the world. Nikkei Asian Review notes that this has in part fuelled tensions between Washington and China over surveillance allegations. However this also could suggest that many customers in China are ready to make the switch to 5G right now. If the iPhone 11 doesn't offer customers the option to use 5G, perhaps many potential buyers have chosen to go with home-grown Huawei instead.

Apple can at least take solace in the fact that the iPhone 11 is proving popular amongst its customer base in the region, however the reports regarding "a looming challenge" seem to suggest that Apple's struggles in China may not be over. As the report notes one analyst had previously predicted that iPhone shipments in China could fall by as much as 50%, so whilst things haven't got that bad, the results for Apple in China is definitely not good.