Apple Sits Atop Contracting Chinese Smartphone Market, Samsung And Lenovo Are Biggest Losers

There's evidence to suggest that China's smartphone market is headed towards saturation. According to the number crunchers at International Data Corporation, smartphone sales in China dipped 4 percent year-on-year with 98.8 million units shipped in the first quarter of 2015. This is the first time in six years that China's seen the smartphone market contract on an annual basis.

Compared to the previous quarter, smartphone sales are down 8 percent in China as inventory was built up at the end of last year. What these numbers suggest is that most people in China who want a smartphone already own one, leaving phone makers to compete for customers looking to upgrade their handsets.

The two companies hardest hit were Samsung and Lenovo, which saw year-over-year sales declines of 53 percent and 22 percent respectively. 

iPhone 6 Plus

"Smartphones are becoming increasingly saturated in China," said Kitty Fok, Managing Director at IDC China. "China is oftentimes thought of as an emerging market but the reality is that the vast majority of phones sold in China today are smartphones, similar to other mature markets like the US, UK, Australia, and Japan. Just like these markets, convincing existing users as well as feature phone users to upgrade to new smartphones will now be the key to further growth in the China market."

Apple leads the highly competitive landscape in China with a 14.7 percent share of the market, as demand for its big screen iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus devices remains strong. Xiaomi isn't far behind at 13.5 percent, followed by Huawei (11.2 percent), Samsung (9.6 percent), and Lenovo (8.2 percent). The catch-all "others" category represents 41.7 percent of smartphone sales.