China’s smartphone market is down 13% year-on-year amid its fourth consecutive quarter of year-on-year declines.

According to a report by market research firm Counterpoint Research, overall sales have not been optimistic, though Huawei and Honor saw double-digit growth compared to the same time last year. Chinese manufacturers filled the ranks the top five brands. The most popular was Vivo, taking nearly 20% of the market in the third quarter, followed by Oppo, Honor, Huawei, and Xiaomi, collectively making up 78% of the market.

Apple saw its year-on-year growth decline by 17% and made up just 7.7% of the market. The company saw sales decrease following the release of the iPhone XS and XS Max. Counterpoint says this was due to the price of the devices.

According to Counterpoint, the strong performance from Vivo, Huawei, and Honor are as a result of product innovation, which includes AI processors and the introduction of flagship-like features to cost-effective devices.

However, analysts believe this all may change in the fourth-quarter of 2018, which is seen as a time for promoting more expensive flagship devices during a host of shopping festivals. Sentiment is expected to shift from a price war to that of a battle between premium devices. As an example, Apple topped over smartphone makers regarding sales on Tmall during Double11. The company also commands 65% of the market for smartphones priced at more than $600.

Huawei, which overtook Apple in Q2 to become the world’s second largest smartphone manufacturer has begun focusing on the premium market. This is especially true in India, where the company plans to start manufacturing phones from 2020.

In April, smartphone shipments in China dropped to under 100 million for the first time since 2013. The decline was attributed to rampant imitation and intense competition, contrary to Counterpoint’s report, which associated strong performance in the top 5 brands with innovation.

Christopher Udemans is TechNode's former Shanghai-based data and graphics reporter. He covered Chinese artificial intelligence, mobility, cleantech, and cybersecurity.

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