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May 11, 2015updated 30 Aug 2016 12:33pm

Samsung biggest loser as Chinese smartphone market shrinks

Shipments down in Q1 15.

By Alexander Sword

China’s smartphone market has contracted year-on-year for the first time in six years.

According to IDC, Q1 2015 saw 98.8 million units shipped, a decline of 4 percent compared to the equivalent period last year.

Compared to the previous quarter, the market saw a decline of 8 percent, which IDC attributed to a large inventory build-up at the end of 2014.

The research showed that Apple was the top smartphone vendor in China in the quarter, with 14.5 million shipments. This represented year-on-year unit growth of 62.1 percent. Xiaomi followed with 13.5 million units and Huawei came in third with 11.2 million units.

Most of these gains came at the expense of Samsung, the biggest loser in the quarter. The South Korean company saw its sales plummet 53 percent to 9.6 percent million. In Q1 2014 it was the biggest vendor, shifting a mighty 20.5 million units.

IDC expects the players to rely on a mixture of multi-brand strategies, higher price tier competition, non-traditional channel strategies and expansion into overseas markets.

"Smartphones are becoming increasingly saturated in China," said Kitty Fok, Managing Director at IDC China. "China is oftentimes thought of as an emerging market but the reality is that the vast majority of phones sold in China today are smartphones, similar to other mature markets like the US, UK, Australia, and Japan.

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"Just like these markets, convincing existing users as well as feature phone users to upgrade to new smartphones will now be the key to further growth in the China market."

"To successfully combat local players overseas, Chinese vendors will need to focus on channel relationships and localized marketing strategies," said Tay Xiaohan, Senior Market Analyst with IDC Asia/Pacific’s Client Devices team.

"Most of the market’s growth will come from sub-US$150 phones as feature phone users switch to low-cost smartphones."

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