Apple Leads, Local Brand TBD

Analysis of the Chinese Smartphone Market in 2023

As 2023 came to an end, various analytics agencies released ranking data for the Chinese smartphone market. Interestingly, most of these agencies unanimously declared Apple as the top player in the Chinese smartphone market. As for the ranking of Chinese smartphone brands, the reliability of such rankings was called into question.


Agencies such as Counterpoint, Canalys, BCI, and IDC have all published data indicating Apple’s dominance in the Chinese smartphone market for 2023. Evidently, these agencies are cautious with their assessments of Apple, especially considering the substantial sales of iPhones in the Chinese market.

However, the rankings from second to fifth place were exceptionally chaotic. One brand was ranked as the second in the Chinese smartphone market by Counterpoint, while other research agencies excluded this Chinese smartphone brand from the top five. Some brands were not listed in the top five by certain agencies, whereas others ranked the same brands as second. This illustrates the arbitrary nature of these rankings by different research agencies.

The confusion in the rankings from the research agencies can be attributed to different approaches in data collection. Some agencies base their rankings on the volume of shipments, while others rely on sales data that reaches consumers. Additionally, some agencies consider activation volume, and these varying data sources might lead to disparities. For instance, activation volume could include both new and second-hand smartphones.

Furthermore, commercial interests may also play a role in this confusion. Research agencies rely on the support of smartphone companies to survive. Some agencies receive sponsorship from domestic smartphone brands, naturally prompting them to position these brands more favorably. On the other hand, brands that do not provide sponsorships might end up with lower rankings.


In recent years, research agencies have faced significant pressure due to the rise of domestic smartphone brands. In order to cater to the demands of these brands, agencies have been meticulously analyzing data from the domestic smartphone market, examining annual and quarterly shipment volumes, and even delving into monthly and weekly shipment volumes. This level of granularity aims to support the success of domestic smartphone brands. Ultimately, their goal is to prove that these brands can outperform Apple.

However, such practices have led to a decline in the credibility of these research agencies. For example, DXOMARK, which has long claimed that Chinese smartphones surpass Apple in terms of camera capabilities, has been contradicted by the reality that influencers and digital content creators, who are experts in photography, predominantly use iPhones. Their preference for iPhone cameras is a clear indication of the superior photography capabilities of Apple’s devices. As a result, a certain domestic smartphone brand has even ceased to pay for assessments by DXOMARK.

While domestic smartphone data in China can be manipulated, it is more difficult to falsify international market data. Several years ago, research agencies pointed out that the overall overseas shipment volume of Chinese smartphones was less than 100 million units, while the combined overseas shipment volume declared by Chinese smartphone brands surpassed 150 million units. This overstatement of over 50 million units has made Chinese smartphones a global laughingstock.

Nevertheless, Chinese smartphone brands have since redeemed themselves. Several Chinese smartphone brands have established themselves in overseas markets, with one brand even achieving an overseas shipment volume of 140 million units. In contrast, the brands that resorted to falsifying data have faded into obscurity. This exemplifies how falsifying data might bring temporary success, but the market ruthlessly eliminates such uncompetitive smartphone companies in the end, revealing their true colors.


In conclusion, the reliability of research agencies has significantly diminished. Consequently, it is advisable to take their data and analysis with a grain of salt. Instead of being influenced by various analyses and data provided by these agencies, it’s preferable to simply choose a smartphone based on personal preference. The interference of vested interests has made the analyses of these agencies increasingly unreliable.

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