Chinese sales were a soft spot in what was generally a solid December quarter for Apple (AAPL) . And new sales estimates shine a light on the extent to which tough competition from local smartphone makers have become a headache for the tech giant.
Moreover, considering that Apple still appears to be doing much better in China than any overseas rival, the numbers raise questions about how competitive foreign Android players will be going forward in the biggest smartphone market in the world.
Research firm IDC estimates Chinese smartphone shipments grew 19% annually in the fourth quarter, and 9% for the whole of 2016. Local firms Oppo, Huawei, Vivo and Xiaomi were ranked, respectively, #1, #2, #3 and #5 for both time periods; with Oppo's 16.8% 2016 share good enough for first place, it's safe to say the market is quite competitive.
For its part, Apple came in fourth place during both time periods. IDC thinks the company had an 11% fourth quarter unit share on 14.9 million shipments, and a 9.6% 2016 share on 44.9 million shipments. Those shares are respectively down from 15% and 13.6% in the year-ago periods. Notably, Chinese iPhone shipments are believed to have dropped 12.8% last quarter in spite of the iPhone 7 launch.
On a revenue basis, Apple's Chinese share might still be north of 25%, given the iPhone's steep average selling price (ASP). Apple's global iPhone ASP was $695 last quarter, up $8 annually thanks to strong demand for the iPhone 7-Plus, which features a $769 starting price.