Total sales fell by 14% year-on-year, though the quarter-on-quarter figures were positive, growing by 6%. Xiaomi was the only major OEM to achieve positive year-on-year growth.
Counterpoint research analyst Flora Tang said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has been effectively contained in mainland China with rare new cases reported locally in 3Q.
"According to the National Bureau of Statistics of China, China’s economy grew by 4.9% in 3Q, recovering from a contraction of 6.8% in 1Q and a mild growth of 3.2% in 2Q.
"During the post-pandemic recovery period in 3Q, the overall market demand in China remained stagnant, despite smartphone OEMs’ efforts to stimulate sales.”
Another research analyst, Mengmeng Zhang, said: “Huawei continued to lead the market with 45% share in the quarter.
"Various Huawei 5G smartphones, including the premium P40/P40 Pro 5G series, Mate 30 5G series and the affordable premium Nova 7 5G series, received positive market feedback to dominate China’s top 10 best-selling models list.
"However, [after being] attacked by the escalated US trade ban since mid-September, Huawei has suffered severe component shortage and its sales have started to decline."
When it came to sales of individual models, the iPhone 11 took about 5% market share and remained the best-seller during the quarter. But Apple's overall sales volume dropped 7% year-on-year, with the deferred debut of the iPhone 12 series probably being the reason.
Counterpoint said Xiaomi’s share increased to 11% in 3Q, outperforming the market with 8% year-on-year growth in sales volume. This was put down to aggressive promotions during the OEM’s decennial celebrations in August.
Sales of both OPPO and vivo fell year-on-year, but saw an increase from the last quarter, driven by the strong momentum of their new flagship series – the OPPO Reno 4/4 Pro 5G and vivo X50/X50 Pro/X50 Pro Plus 5G.
OPPO’s Reno 4/Reno 4 Pro 5G were the highlight, achieving 90% growth during the first quarter of sales compared to their predecessors (sales of the Reno 3/Reno 3 Pro 5G during 1Q 2020). With this, the OPPO Reno 4 5G became the lone 5G model — apart from Huawei’s — to figure in China’s top-selling smartphone models list.
Regarding the 5G smartphone sector in China, senior analyst Ethan Qi said: “From the start of the second half this year, Chinese OEMs have been active in launching price-for-value 5G smartphones in the sub-US$300 (sub-A$426.7) price band.
"Some popular models in this segment include the Huawei Enjoy 20 5G, HONOR X10 5G, OPPO A72 5G, vivo Y70S 5G and the Redmi 10X 5G.
"Aggressive players like realme released four budget 5G models during 3Q, and further brought down the price threshold of 5G phones in China to about US$150 with the realme V3 5G (starting price of the realme V3 5G is RMB999/US$149)."