2015 has been a tough year for smartphone vendors in China, with an economic slowdown taking its toll of country-wide sales. However some vendors have been more successful than others.

Huawei reached one of its major milestones this quarter, shipping 100 million units in 2015, becoming the first Chinese vendor to do so, according to research firm TrendForce. Given the current climate for phone sales in China, meeting goals is a quite an achievement. Some of the biggest contenders in the industry have been forced to lower expectations.

Samsung held tight to their top spot in global smartphone rankings, accounting for 25% of total shipments in Q3. However their global shipments are expected to decline a percentage point in 2015 to 324 million units, while rival Apple will see a 16% boost, shipping 223.7 million.

While Huawei’s expected shipments for 2015 are less than half of Apple’s, the company is speeding up where others are struggling, with TrendForce estimating a growth rate of more than 40% over 2014.

That said, China’s smartphone market has not been particularly kind to any of the big smartphone vendors, and it is expected to stay that way until at least mid 2016.

Several Chinese vendors have attempted to stave off market saturation woes by introducing high-end models at a premium price in an attempt to edge into Apple and Samsung’s territory. Xiaomi attempted to crack the premium market with its Mi Note series, positioned as a slightly less pricey alternative to the foreign brands.

However 2015 revealed that Chinese consumers are willing to pay more for the premium names rather than take a price cut for something with less brand appeal. Xiaomi is still set to achieve a 14.6% shipment growth this year due to steady sales in their budget models, however they will fall short of their 100 million yearly target.

Huawei also made an attempt to crack the high-end market, aggressively targeting features in other name brand devices. The Mate S series, which was released just before the iPhone 6s, is Huawei’s most expensive flagship yet, retailing within the iPhone’s price range. They also unveiled a Force Touch feature similar to Apple’s 3D Touch, along with Knuckle Sense technology and fast charging.

While Huawei may have had more success in pushing their high-end smartphone offering, their market share in China did fall almost 1% to 17.9% in Q3 while Xiaomi gained close to 1.5% to reach 14%.

Total third-quarter global smartphone shipments were up 9.1%, reaching 332 million.

Cate is a tech writer. She worked as a journalist in Australia, Mongolia and Myanmar. You can reach her (in Chinese or English) at: @catecadell or catecadell@technode.com

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