It’s easy to forget amid continuous reports of spectacular growth in China, but that’s not the way economies typically work. Indeed, China is a special country – one with a vast population rapidly embracing a capitalist lifestyle, and everything that entails.

For the last decade, that’s meant smartphone adoption at a rate that could make any nation blush. Year on year, we’ve seen quite remarkable growth, peaking at 150% in 2011 but sustaining 129% and 88% growth in the subsequent two years.

Recent years have proven a little leaner in regards to smartphone shipments, with 2% growth in 2015 and 11% growth in 2016, accounting for around 480 million units shipped in the latter year. Those are signs of a maturing market, and now according to numbers from Canalys, China has suffered its first ever fall in smartphone growth, falling 4% in 2017.

china smartphone growth 2017

Canalysis report that the drop was partly due to China having one of its worst ever year-on-year performances last quarter, with shipment falling a shocking 13% to just under 113 million units.

Despite the market decline, 2017 proved a positive year for the likes of Huawei, whose shipments grew by 9%, moving more than 24 million smartphones out of the door and staying on the top spot.

Oppo and Vivo had a tougher time of it, with shipments falling by 16% and 7% respectively, but they managed to hold on to their respective second and third-place positions nonetheless. Oppo moved 19 million ‘phones, whilst Vivo managed 17 million. It’s worth noting though that the two brands are, in fact, owned by the same company, making their numbers significantly more impressive.

Down in fourth was Apple, who’ve moved quickly to usurp Xiaomi, who now sit in fifth place with 13 million units shipped last year.

“The declining Chinese market will have a detrimental impact on those Chinese vendors that have been heavily relying on their home market,” said Canalys Research Analyst Hattie He. “It will affect their cashflow (sic) and profitability, limiting overseas expansion and bringing into question future survival. The threat to vendors such as Gionee and Meizu is now closer than ever.”

It’s anticipated that the slower growth in China will encourage vendors to look overseas, just as Huawei have in the West and Xiaomi have in India, where they became the top smartphone brand in Q4 2017.

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Ten fingers, five senses, one man, loads of Chinese smartphones.

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