Huawei Regains Top Spot in China’s Phone Market

On February 5th, market research firm Counterpoint Research revealed new data showing that Huawei had led China’s smartphone market in sales during the first two weeks of 2024. This marked its first return to the top since facing a downturn trend due to policy restrictions beginning in 2019.

(Photo Credit: Counterpoint Research)

It’s quite remarkable to see Huawei achieving this feat, especially considering the challenges it faced. Despite critical setbacks, Huawei has demonstrated resilience and determination, bouncing back stronger each time.

Looking back at Huawei’s journey, it’s clear that the brand has been making significant strides since the launch of the Huawei Mate10 series in Munich in 2017. Despite encountering significant obstacles, Huawei evolved from a follower to a formidable competitor, ultimately becoming a market leader.

(Photo Credit: Huawei)

Huawei faced an existential threat when the supply of advanced chips was cut off

During the rapid rise of the 5G era in 2020, Huawei encountered a crisis with a chip supply cut that brought forth heated online discussions. Many referred to it as the “Swan Song of Kirin” chips. This led to a significant decline in Huawei’s market share, with competitors such as Apple dominating the high-end market, and brands like Samsung, OPPO, vivo, and Xiaomi capturing the mid to low-end segments.

(Photo Credit: Huawei)

The absence of the Huawei Mate series made the high-end smartphone market seem less vibrant, but anticipation for the Huawei Mate50 series grew by the day.

After 684 days of waiting, the Huawei Mate50 series made a powerful return, despite numerous limitations, such as the inability to use Kirin chips and 5G or other hardware restrictions, the series still showcased innovative features like Kunlun Glass, Beidou satellite messaging, an innovative emergency mode, and a variable aperture.

By the end of last year, sales of the Huawei Mate50 series had reached 6.8 million units, occasionally leading to stock shortages.

(Photo Credit: Huawei)

The launch of Mate60 was a turning point for Huawei

In the second half of 2023, even before the Huawei Mate60 was unveiled, there was widespread speculation about the return of Kirin chips and 5G. Without prior notice, Huawei officially released the Mate60 Pro on its online store, satisfying the high expectations for 5G and Kirin chips.

(Photo Credit: Huawei)

Huawei introduced satellite calling capabilities to the Mate60 series, a first in the consumer smartphone domain, relying on the TianTong-1 satellite to cover China and surrounding areas. This achievement not only demonstrates Huawei’s technological innovation but also represents a significant breakthrough under hardware restrictions.

(Photo Credit: Huawei)

Despite global supply chain challenges, Huawei’s advancements, especially in 5G technology, have kept it competitive in the high-end smartphone market. Its second-generation Kunlun Glass and a new camera system are among many notable features.

(Photo Credit: Huawei)

Since opening pre-orders for the Mate60 Pro at the end of August, Huawei’s physical stores faced a constant supply shortage, with limited stock of the Mate60 and Mate60 Pro. Some customers who pre-ordered in early September had to wait until late October to receive their phones. The more high-end Mate60 Pro+ was even harder to secure for pre-order.

Within just three days of its official release, the Huawei Mate60 Pro recorded sales of 800,000 units across online and offline channels, a new record for the Mate series. Despite initial stock shortages, Huawei managed a 71.1% sales growth between the third and fourth quarters of 2023.

Huawei’s recent capability to supply some models immediately is unsurprising given its solid customer base, brand strength, and established distribution network. Once production issues are resolved, its sales are expected to climb even further.

The smartphone market is rapidly evolving, and Huawei’s consistent efforts to preserve its core channels and supply chain over three challenging years prepared it for a strong comeback, potentially reclaiming the number one spot in China’s domestic market as early as the fourth quarter of 2023. With the gradual return of Huawei’s terminals, its product lines including Mate, P, nova, and foldable series are set to normalize, marking a new phase of channel expansion.

(Photo Credit: Huawei)

Thus, Huawei’s renewed sales push will likely catalyze significant market shifts. The past three years’ experiences might no longer apply, challenging competitors to strategize carefully in response to Huawei’s resurgence.

Despite focusing on the high-end market, Huawei’s response to competitors and comparisons with Apple highlight its ambition to not only match but exceed its rivals. The Mate60 series selling 1.6 million units within six weeks of launch contrasts starkly with the relatively disappointing performance of the iPhone 15 series in China. This trend suggests that Huawei’s growth could further erode Apple’s dominance in the Chinese high-end smartphone market in 2024.

(Photo Credit: IDC)

In summary, Huawei remains a formidable contender, aiming to reclaim lost ground in 2024 and restore its status as a key financial pillar within the Huawei Group. With the smartphone market showing signs of resurgence in 2024, manufacturers, including Huawei, prioritize boosting shipments amidst ongoing challenges.

As Huawei makes a comprehensive comeback, other brands are intensifying their efforts in the competitive mid-range market to maintain their edge. The competition is just beginning, with the entire industry bracing for an eventful year ahead.

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