In a surprising turn of events, Apple’s iPhone series achieved a significant milestone by claiming the esteemed title of the best-selling smartphone in China last year. Despite facing fierce competition from local rivals and grappling with increasing restrictions imposed by the Chinese government on foreign technology, the iPhone secured the top spot in shipments for both the fourth quarter and the overall performance in 2023, according to market tracker IDC.
Contrary to initial reports of declining iPhone sales in the fourth quarter, IDC data revealed that Apple’s success was primarily attributed to a lesser decline compared to its competitors during the period. Analysts, who had previously suggested a downturn in iPhone sales due to waning enthusiasm in the world’s largest smartphone market, were proven wrong. Timely discounts and promotions played a crucial role in mitigating the impact, enabling Apple to outperform both domestic and international competitors.
Throughout 2023, Apple experienced a modest 2.2% drop in sales, showcasing its resilience compared to local rivals such as Honor Device Co. and Vivo, both of which suffered double-digit slumps. The overall smartphone market in China saw a 5% decline in shipments, marking the lowest volume in a decade. This decline was attributed to a soft economic recovery and weakened consumer sentiment, according to IDC.
Notably, Huawei made a significant comeback with its Mate 60 series, experiencing a remarkable 36% increase in shipments during the holiday quarter. This resurgence propelled Huawei back into the top five smartphone makers in China, intensifying the competition in the market.
IDC research analyst Arthur Gao commented on Apple’s remarkable achievement, stating, “Apple’s climb to the top spot in 2023, especially in light of renewed competition from Huawei and the soft spending sentiment, marks a tremendous success.” He attributed Apple’s success to timely price promotions in third-party channels that stimulated demand.
Despite securing the title of the world’s biggest smartphone seller in 2023, Apple is expected to face challenges sustaining demand in China. Analysts anticipate a further weakening of iPhone sales in the country, particularly in light of government restrictions. Agencies and government-backed companies have reportedly instructed staff to refrain from bringing iPhones and other foreign devices to work in sensitive sectors.