UBS predicted earlier this month that Apple would continue to see declining sales in China as competition from local vendors increases, and the latest data from Canalys suggests that this is exactly what’s happened.

The company reports that local brand Xiaomi overtook Apple to take fourth place in the first quarter of this year …

China is a tough market for all players at present, Canalys saying that total smartphone shipments declined 21% year-on-year.

Smartphone shipments in China suffered their biggest ever decline in Q1 2018, down by more than 21% annually to 91 million units, a number first passed some four years ago in Q4 2013. Eight of the top 10 smartphone vendors were hit by annual declines.

The exceptions were Huawei – which grew its sales slightly by 2% – and Xiaomi, whose shipments grew by 37% over the year.

The company attributes the decline to consumer fatigue. All the flagship products look similar, and the marketing too has a samey feel which gives people little incentive to upgrade. While Apple’s iPhone X was an exception, its pricing is a huge barrier in China’s extremely competitive marketplace, and the prospect of a trade war with China could make things even worse.

Canalys says that China is ‘increasingly becoming a four-way contest’ between Huawei, Oppo, Vivo and Xiaomi. For the first time, it lumped Apple into the ‘Others’ category.

The only comfort Apple can draw is that Samsung is having an even worse time in the country, the Korean company’s sales falling by more than 50%.

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Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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