Handset sales in China surged 241% in March compared with the previous month though were still down 23% from a year earlier, according to official data released Monday.

Why it matters: China’s handset consumption has started to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic but its aftershocks continued to weigh.

  • The turnaround is partially because local smartphone makers refreshed their handset lineups in March, including Huawei’s P40 flagship and Xiaomi’s budget phone, the Redmi Note 9 Pro. In total, smartphone makers launched 34 new models in March, accounting for 87.2% of the new handsets launched in the first quarter, according to data released by China’s Ministry of Information Industry and Technology (MIIT).

Details: China’s handset sales in March were 21.8 million units including 6.2 million which are 5G compatible, according to the MIIT.

  • Apple’s iPhones saw a surge in demand during the month as sales rose 406% from February to around 2.5 million units, according to MIIT data and TechNode’s calculations.
  • Total handset sales in the country dropped 36.4% year on year to 49 million units in the first quarter, according to the data.

Context: Despite the rebound in monthly sales, observers were not optimistic about China’s smartphone market over the long term. According to a recent report by market research firm Strategy Analytics, 37% of Chinese consumers have delayed plans to upgrade their handsets.

  • “The supply chain and full ecosystem may be back up to speed as we enter Q2, 2020 but it is clear that a significant portion of consumers are not yet ready to return to previous patterns and purchase intentions. Operators, vendors and retailers will have to work extra hard to persuade hesitant smartphone owners that new devices and new 5G services are worth making an investment in relative to other priorities,” Linda Sui, director of smartphone research at Strategy Analytics, said in the report.
  • In a bid to boost sales, Huawei has teamed up with food delivery platform Meituan to allow consumers to order its smartphones and tablets and receive them within an hour from flagship stores.

Writing about semiconductors and telecommunications.