Apple’s iPhone shipments to China dive as Huawei tightens grip on smartphone market

A Chinese man is on the phone outside the Apple Store on January 3, 2019 in Beijing, China.Lintao Zhang

Apple Inc.’s Chinese smartphone shipments plummeted an estimated 20 per cent in 2018’s final quarter, underscoring the scale of the iPhone maker’s retreat in the world’s largest mobile device arena against local rivals like Huawei Technologies Co.

The domestic market contracted 9.7 per cent in the quarter, but Apple declined at about twice that pace, research firm IDC said in a report on Monday. A slowing economy, lengthening replacement times and the iPhone’s hefty price tag contributed to the U.S. giant’s decline, it said. Xiaomi Corp. fared even worse in the final months of last year, when shipments plunged almost 35 per cent, the consultancy estimates.

Smartphone labels from Apple to Samsung Electronics Co. are contending with a plateauing global market after years of breakneck growth, as a lack of innovation discourages consumers from replacing devices as often as they used to. Apple also has to cope with the rise of Huawei, which is eroding its share of a market once pivotal to driving its growth. The country’s top electronics retailers slashed prices on the latest iPhones by as much as 20 per cent in past months — an unusual move that illustrated waning enthusiasm for Apple’s gadgets.

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