Having an Apple device is synonymous with being wealthy and fashionable for many Chinese people. And while the mindset remains, a declining number of customers are willing to pay the price, and local competitors are lining up to offer comparable alternatives at a more affordable price.

This is evidenced by the iPhone’s sinking market share in China, a market of huge strategic importance for the U.S. vendor. In addition to toppling sales worldwide, iPhone’s China market share declined from 16% in Q1 2015 to less than 13% in the same period of this year, according to research institute IDC.

When looking at these numbers, you may wonder why Apple is losing ground and who’s taking over the market. Leveraging on survey results from thousands of smartphone users, Tencent Penguin Intelligence went on a mission to answer these questions.

There’s Still Room For Growth In The Chinese Smartphone Market

Although China’s smartphone market has passed the period of dizzying growth, the field is still robust thanks to high smartphone trade-in rates. Tencent’s research shows that 75.4% of interviewees change their smartphones at least twice a year, of which 34.4% of people buy new smartphones once a year. Only 24.6% of interviewees reported that they used the same smartphone for more than three years.

The report also shows that non-iPhone users change phones more frequently than iPhone users. The report attributes this to the fact that users can expect an iPhone to be fully operational for two years with regular system upgrades, while Android phones may need a complete overhaul in that period. Most of the survey’s iPhone users were well aware of this, as 58.7% of them choose Apple’s iOS system when asked which iPhone feature they would be most reluctant to give up.

Huawei Is The Top iPhone Alternative

Chinese companies have spent years attempting to elbow their way into the high-tier smartphone markets. Companies, including Huawei, are now seeing the fruits of those efforts, as iPhones are no longer the exclusive choice in this lucrative sector.

Among thousands of former iPhone users that have switched to other brands, 25% are using products made by Huawei, whose high-tier smartphones have gained momentum in recent years.

Samsung took the second spot with 17.7%, which shows that the Korean company is still a competitive rival in the high-end market. However, Chinese companies take the lion’s share as the rest of the top-five list was occupied by local companies: Xiaomi (15.1%), OPPO (14.4%) and Vivo (14.2%).

Emma Lee (Li Xin) was TechNode's e-commerce and new retail reporter until June 2022, when she moved to Sixth Tone to cover technology and consumption. Get in touch with her via lixin@sixthtone.com or Twitter.

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