Samsung Phone Sales Fall in China, Market Share Plummets to 1.6% in Q4

An army of Chinese brands led by Xiaomi has come to dominate the domestic smartphone market. SONY, Samsung, Blackberry and a large number of overseas brands have become its victims. Foreign media reported that Samsung’s smartphone market share in China fell to 2 percent in Q3, putting it in ninth place.

It’s expected to fall further in Q4.

Strategy Analytics, a technology market research firm, forecast that Samsung’s market share may tumble as far as 1.6 percent before the year ends, the Korea Herald reported.

Such a bleak market share suggests that Samsung’s mobile phones are being marginalized in the Chinese market and forgotten by mainstream consumers.

A few years ago, Samsung was the king of smartphones in China with 20 percent of the market. But the rise of homegrown vendors such as Huawei, Xiaomi, OPPO and Vivo has eaten away at Samsung’s user base.

The four Chinese handset brands controlled two-thirds of the domestic market in Q3, according to the report. Domestic mobile phones have a dominant position in the domestic market.

But the report also noted that the iPhone X, launching in China in Q4, will affect sales the four major domestic manufacturers. Their total share in Q4 will fall to 57.3 percent.

The iPhone X went on sale in China in November, and people once again waited in long queues at Apple’s retail stores. But the two editions of the iPhone 8 released in September suffered a downturn in the Chinese market. Some retailers were selling it at 20 percent less than the official retail price. iPhone sales in Q4 will be based on the combines sales of iPhone X and iPhone 8 handsets.

Lee Byung-tae, a scholar at a Korean business school, said great changes have taken place in China’s smartphone market. Local brands dominate with high quality products and higher cost performance. Samsung appears powerless to reclaim the Chinese market.

Lee said successful China’s smartphone brands were also expanding into low-end global markets such as India. If South Korea’s Samsung and LG are unable to become more competitive, their global shares will continue to shrink.

Once upon a time, Samsung controlled China’s low-end and mid-end markets with its massive phone production. But in the mid- and low-end markets, domestic brands have overtaken Samsung. Samsung’s few low-priced products are not competitive.

In the high-end market, Apple and Samsung have the global advantage. To Samsung’s disappointment, its high-end phones, priced up to $1,000 this year (in China, the retail price is 10,000 yuan plus tax), are taking a hit. In other words, Samsung’s research and development in smartphones is not transferring into sales in the Chinese market.

The Korea Herald reports that Samsung has shed more than 20,000 jobs in China and replaced its executives in China over the past two years.

It’s worth pointing out that the downturn has only affected Samsung’s mobile phone business. Samsung has many business units and subsidiaries in China, including memory chips and household appliances. Samsung has also announced plans to invest billions of dollars, expanding its semiconductor manufacturing plant in Xi’an, Shaanxi Province, and continuing to increase its production of flash memory chips.

Apple is Samsung’s old rival. According to a report by Strategy Analytics, Apple gained 7.2 percent of the Chinese market in Q3, putting it in fifth place. It is the only foreign brand among the top five. But Apple’s share in China is expected to rise to 10.7 percent in Q4, driven by the iPhone X.

Analysts writing for Bloomberg and Wall Street said the push made by the iPhone X is only temporary as the handsets are priced too high. Aside from users in need of an urgent replacement, it’s hard for the iPhone X to have continually high sales volume in China.

Samsung is not the only brand on the decline in China’s mobile phone market. In addition to the rapid rise of China’s domestic brands, external data shows that China’s smartphone market has shrunk and the room for competing brands is shrinking. Many brands have been marginalized in the domestic mobile phone market, including HTC, Lenovo, Motorola, SONY, Blackberry, LG, Coolpad and Letv.

China’s mobile phone market is centralizing in Q3. Share of the four domestic giants and Apple are still growing, but all remaining brands account for only 15 percent of the market.

This article originally appeared in Tencent Technology and was translated by Pandaily.