The overall Chinese market contracted by 9.7 per cent in the quarter, but Apple declined at about twice that pace, research firm IDC said in a Monday report.
Dissipating Chinese demand compounds the problems at Apple, which is struggling to deliver on another hit device as its marquee gadget loses some of its cachet.
Revenue from the iPhone slid 15 percent in the October to December period. To compensate for the loss, Apple is trying to replace phone sales with revenue from services. But my key takeaway is this: The IDC report proves that Apple blaming only China for its iPhone sales drop-off is a smoke screen: Its sales in China were only slightly worse than they were worldwide.
The figures in the report showed a 19.9 percent fall in Apple's smartphone shipments in the final quarter of 2018, while Huawei's grew 23.3 percent. The Chinese slowdown was the driving factor behind Apple's first revenue outlook cut in nearly two decades.
"When smartphones became a commodity for Chinese customers, multinationals need to adjust their overall sales and marketing strategies", Peng said.
Apple said it will pursue iPhone price cuts in markets that has been affected by the stronger dollar. This is happening at a time when China's homegrown Huawei is tightening its grip in the market and recently dethroned Apple from the second position in the world's top selling smartphone brands.
Huawei shored up its lead after unit shipments soared 23.3 per cent, leading all major brands, according to IDC. That's despite grappling with an unusually turbulent few months during which its finance chief was arrested on allegations of bank fraud, and the US marshaled its allies to try and block the company from selling next-generation networking gear.
Apple no longer breaks out detailed numbers on iPhone shipments in its quarterly results, meaning that surveys and channel checks by the likes of IDC are often the clearest indicator of shifts in sales. Fifth-ranked Xiaomi, a Chinese name that experienced rapid growth just before its 2018 initial public offering, incurred a 34.9 per cent plunge in shipments thanks to inventory corrections and an internal restructuring, IDC said.
While Apple chief executive Tim Cook blamed the weak Chinese economy when the company announced earlier last month a downgrade in revenue guidance for the quarter ended December, analysts said he may have glossed over strategic missteps in the world's largest smartphone market and the effects of fierce competition from fast-improving Chinese Android handset makers.