China’s smartphone sales declined 14% YoY in 2022 to reach their lowest level in a decade,. 2022 was also the fifth consecutive year of YoY sales declines in China. Macroeconomic headwinds and the impact of COVID-19 led to the sales plunge.
In Q4 2022, China’s smartphone sales declined 15% YoY. Therefore, sales declined YoY in double digits in every quarter of 2022. The sudden relaxing of the COVID-19 policy in December resulted in a surge in cases and led the market to decline 5% QoQ to record its lowest quarterly sales in the year, instead of posting a typical seasonal increase.
Since the spring of 2022, many cities in China, both large and small, were being subjected to COVID-19 restrictions, which negatively impacted consumer sentiment and further delayed smartphone replacements.
Chinese OEMs continue to believe that the premium segment is the key and launched premium smartphone models during the year. They also introduced more foldable devices. Competition in the foldable segment is likely to intensify in 2023 and Chinese OEMs will look to expand their foldable offerings in the overseas markets
In 2022, vivo retained the first spot with a 19.2% market share, followed by Apple at 18.0% and OPPO at 17.5%.
Apple declined 3% YoY in 2022 but was able to outperform the market to become the #2 brand in China for the first time for a full year. It also reached its highest-ever quarterly share, capturing 23.7% of the sales in Q4 2022. This was despite the shortages faced by the iPhone 14 Pro versions as well as the comparatively lower popularity of the iPhone 14 series’ non-Pro versions due to limited upgrades compared to the iPhone 13.
HONOR was the only brand in 2022 to have positive YoY growth at 38% YoY. However, this growth was mainly due to a lower base in 2021, when the brand had started its resurgence in the Chinese market. HONOR made its comeback with the HONOR 50 in 2021. Now the brand has stabilized with more product lines covering all price segments.
vivo, OPPO and Xiaomi saw YoY declines of 23%, 27% and 19% respectively in 2022 as demand dropped amid economic uncertainty.
In Q4 2022, Apple captured 23.7% of the market, maintaining its leading position. But it registered a double-digit YoY decline like major Android OEMs. Huawei recovered from its low base in 2021, increasing by 15% YoY in Q4. However, the brand is still unable to ship 5G-enabled devices, which is a major concern for its sales outlook.
All the major OEMs offered stronger promotions during the Singles’ Day online sales festival. They also used the sales promotion season to shed excess inventory. Smartphone sales surged MoM, but the rise didn’t sustain into December when COVID-19 started spreading fast.
The sudden change in China’s COVID-19 policy caught the market off guard, but the reopening process is also ahead of the expected schedule. Looking ahead, China’s smartphone sales may show a positive YoY growth in Q2 2023, when the country should have restored normal social activities.
However, consumer sentiment will take longer than the economy to recover, particularly when it comes to income prospects. Therefore, we do not expect any explosive growth in smartphone sales this year. But a marginal recovery can still be expected.
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