JW Insights: Huawei's return to 5G smartphones challenges not only Apple but also local leading brands trying to move up to high-end markets
Chinese article by 林美炳
English Editor 张未名
09-12 13:50

By Kate Yuan

(JW Insights) Sep 12 -- The return of Huawei's 5G smartphones may force domestic mobile phone makers to slow down their high-end paces, including OPPO, Vivo, Xiaomi, and Honor, who have made strides in the high-end smartphone market in recent years, said a JW report on September 11.

The recent strong comeback of Huawei's 5G smartphones, specifically the Mate 60 series, has sparked a buying frenzy among Chinese consumers. This has caused Apple, which is about to release its iPhone 15 series, to have lost $200 billion in market value, and its sales and revenue may also decline after September. Apple has reduced the orders of the iPhone 15 series.

Chinese domestic mobile phone vendors OPPO, Vivo, Xiaomi, and Honor will also be forced to slow down their high-end strategies. In the past two years, they have been accelerating the high-end transformation of their brands and products to quickly replace Huawei's position in the high-end Android market.

For example, the Xiaomi 13 ranked third in global shipments for single products in the $400-$599 price range in the first quarter of 2023. OPPO Find N2 Flip ranked first in shipments in the small foldable screen smartphone market in the first half of this year. Honor Magic V2 broke the record for the highest first-day sales of all smartphones priced above RMB4,000 ($548.6) in 2023. Vivo surpassed Huawei for the first time in the Chinese high-end market in the second quarter of 2022, claiming the second position.

However, they have not fully completed the transformation to become high-end brands. After all, in the first half of 2020, the domestic high-end smartphone market was essentially divided between Huawei and Apple.

Furthermore, their market share in the mid-range and low-end smartphone segments will also face threats if Huawei lowers 5G smartphone prices in the future. In 2021, they became beneficiaries after Huawei's withdrawal from the mid-range and low-end smartphone market, increasing their market shares by 2.7 percentage points, 4.1 percentage points, and 3.5 percentage points, respectively.

After its spinoff from Huawei at the end of 2020, Honor also benefited from Huawei's exit from the smartphone market, rapidly increasing its market share from 11.7% in 2021 to 18.1% in 2022, becoming the second-largest domestic mobile phone maker.

That said, in the short term, Huawei may still focus on the high-end smartphone market considering factors such as 5G chip production capacity, yield, and cost. It may not have time to consider the mid-range and low-end smartphone market, said the JW Insights report.

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