Apple is no longer China’s biggest smartphone brand
China used to have more iPhone users than of any other smartphone brand. But those days are gone, according to newly released figures from research firm QuestMobile.
In June, the share of active iOS systems dropped about two percentage points from a year ago, the report said. More than 26 per cent of all smartphone owners in China are now Huawei users, compared with just above 21 per cent using Apple.
China has long been home to a sizeable number of iPhone users, but they have also tended to be less loyal to the brand than users elsewhere, according to research by UBS Evidence Lab.
Apple’s biggest rivals in China are domestic phone makers, which are often better attuned to local tastes. And while Apple has managed to lock in users in Western markets with its far-reaching ecosystem, offerings such as iTunes Movies and Apple Arcade aren’t available in China.
Other pundits, like Stratechery author Ben Thompson, pointed to WeChat’s popularity. The multipurpose app offers the same wide range of services across iOS and Android, whether it’s video calls or mobile payments.
Unlike in the US, people in China are far more likely to message each other on WeChat than through iMessage. So green text bubbles are the norm in China, not something to be feared. As a result, the need to stay on iOS is less acute in China.
But iPhone users in China aren’t just more fickle than their overseas counterparts. They’re also less loyal than Huawei users in China.
More than half of the Huawei users who upgraded their phones decided to stay with the Chinese brand, QuestMobile figures showed. But only about 45 per cent of iPhone users chose to remain with Apple.
In a bid to retain long-time customers, Apple has been reducing prices and released a new budget-friendly iPhone SE in April. Thanks in part to discounts and promotions from online retailers, the entry-level iPhone enjoyed a warm reception in China at launch.
Still, some social media users commented that the phone lacks many features offered by cheaper Chinese smartphones, such as faster charging and more cameras. Despite the rising challenges, Apple’s retains a strong edge in the wealthier parts of the country: More than half of its users live in so-called first- and second-tier cities like Beijing and Shanghai.