Huawei Reclaims Top Spot

According to data from market research firm Counterpoint Research, Huawei recaptured the top spot in China’s smartphone sales in the first two weeks of 2024, marking a dramatic comeback to its leading position.

Huawei’s Triumphant Comeback as the Top Contender in the Domestic Market

Despite facing sanctions in 2019, Huawei never completely halted the release and production of its smartphones. However, restricted to chips that did not support 5G, Huawei witnessed a significant decline in sales during the 5G era. Its market share plummeted from the top to being categorized under “others”. The uncertainty surrounding Huawei’s potential to reclaim its glory and return to the top spot was a topic of much speculation.

The unexpected market debut of the Huawei Mate60 series in August last year, equipped with Huawei’s self-developed Kirin 9000S chip and 5G capabilities, quickly became a hit. Subsequent models like the Mate X5 and nova12 series, also featuring the new Kirin chip, officially supported 5G, signaling Huawei’s comprehensive market return.

Counterpoint highlights the success of the Mate60 series as a pivotal factor for Huawei’s resurgence to dominate the domestic market. Despite being four months post-launch, the Mate60 series continues to experience high demand, thanks in part to strong brand loyalty and the HarmonyOS system. The perpetual state of high demand illustrates the consumer enthusiasm for the Mate60 series.

Moreover, the release of the nova12 series in late December further propelled Huawei to reclaim its position as the market leader domestically.

By the end of 2023, Huawei’s domestic sales had already recovered to 32.4 million units, ranking it sixth in China’s smartphone market sales, closely trailing brands such as Apple, vivo, OPPO, Honor, and Xiaomi. With Huawei’s current momentum and the anticipated launch of more 5G smartphones, overtaking Xiaomi and even Honor in 2024 seems within reach.

The past three years have been notably challenging for Huawei’s smartphone segment, witnessing a drastic fall in market share and losing collaborations with Leica and Porsche Design. Many core members across technology, product, and marketing departments left due to lost confidence.

Huawei’s return has been marked by a swift recovery in market share and the development of its XMAGE camera technology and ULTIMATE DESIGN series, with iconic endorsements by Andy Lau. Moreover, the HarmonyOS ecosystem has seen remarkable growth, especially in the automotive sector, bolstering Huawei’s strength more than ever before.

Intense Technical Rivalry Among Chinese Brands

During Huawei’s sanctioned period, major Chinese brands like vivo, OPPO, Honor, and Xiaomi pushed to upscale their presence in the high-end market through advancements in photography, chipsets, design, and brand collaborations. These efforts have significantly improved their standing in the premium market and helped shape their brand identities in terms of photographic and technical innovation. The rapid and robust comeback of Huawei was unforeseen by many, presenting a formidable challenge.

The past few years have seen efforts by Chinese brands to compete against Apple’s dominance in the high-end market. Now, Huawei’s return adds another layer of competition, potentially overshadowing the achievements these brands have made.

None wish to be outdone, and since the end of last year, these brands have intensified their push in the high-end market. New device launches from vivo, OPPO, Honor, and Xiaomi showcase distinctive features, including the latest high-performance chips, improved camera partnerships, and innovative AI applications, demonstrating their confidence in both daily use and gaming.

(vivo X100 series, the first to feature the MediaTek Dimensity 9300 chip)

In camera technology, Chinese manufacturers are doubling down, partnering with renowned brands and employing large sensors and advanced algorithms to establish unique photographic styles. The latest flagship models have shown significant improvements in night and zoom photography, arguably surpassing Huawei and Apple.

(OPPO Find X7 Ultra featuring the LYT-900 sensor and dual periscope zoom lenses)

Leveraging advanced hardware, Chinese manufacturers have differentiated their AI capabilities, altering the smartphone user experience and creating unique advantages.

Technical advancements and strategic marketing have shifted the focus from celebrity endorsements to highlighting technological prowess, a strategy that allowed Huawei to initially stand out among domestic brands.

In the fiercely competitive smartphone market, technological innovation remains the primary battleground for Chinese brands.

Senior figures from various brands have voiced optimism about the market’s potential following Huawei’s comeback, indicating a promising outlook for the high-end market and consumer spending. Exceptional sales performances, such as the Xiaomi 14 series outselling its predecessor sixfold, highlight the competitive strength of the newest models against Huawei’s offerings.

(The Xiaomi 14 series achieves exceptional first-sale performance)

The first two weeks of 2024 represent just the beginning of this year’s smartphone market dynamics. Huawei aims to continue impacting sales with its product lineup, while other Chinese brands will not sit idly by. For consumers, the choice between brand loyalty and product competitiveness becomes more intriguing than ever.

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