China still loves Apple smartphones

Apple smartphones remain the most popular handset brand in China, despite the maker’s poor performance lately in its second-largest market, according to a new report.

Released by China Mobile Communications Corp, the report is based on an analysis of the world’s largest telecom company’s 800 million or so subscribers. It is the first time China Mobile has made its data report public.

About 15 per cent of China Mobile’s subscribers were using iPhones in May, which amounts to about 120 million users, says the company. Domestic brands Huawei Technologies and Xiaomi Corp ranked alongside Samsung Electronics as the second-most popular brands, with each company accounting for 9 per cent of subscribers.

When it comes to the fastest-growing handset makers, smaller local rival Vivo Mobile Communication Technology prevailed thanks to its sprawling offline-retail channels in small cities. About 14 per cent of China Mobile subscribers registered in the first five months of this year are using Vivo’s handsets.

Counterpoint Technology Market Research research director James Yan says Apple’s strong performance in the report is not a contradiction of its declining smartphone sales in China.

“Compared with the iPhone 6 series, which was a record-breaking hit, the iPhone 6S was far less popular,” he says. “But compared with some local players, the iPhone 6S still delivers a relatively good performance.”

Yan says the iPhone 6S had a strong start in the first several months of this year, but the demand quickly died out once the replacement cycle was finished.

Still, Apple attracts the highest consumer loyalty in China, with 45 per cent of Apple users saying they would choose to buy another iPhone when replacing their old handsets, far higher than the average of 18 per cent among other brands.

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