(Jan 26): Apple Inc was China’s top-selling smartphone brand in 2021’s final quarter, industry research showed, taking top spot in the world’s largest mobile market for the first time since 2015.

The newly released iPhone 13 helped Apple out-sell Chinese rivals Vivo and Oppo after Huawei Technologies Co plummeted down the rankings, Counterpoint Research said in a report Wednesday.

Apple’s sales in the country surged 32% even while the overall domestic market shrank 9%, hurt by chip shortages and an economic slowdown that have constrained both production and consumer demand.

The shuffle marks a shift in market dynamics after US curbs on technology exports crippled Huawei’s smartphone business, briefly the world’s largest.

The Chinese networking giant was forced to spin off mobile arm Honor in 2020, which ranked fifth in the quarter after Xiaomi Corp. Apple’s Chinese market share hit a record 23% in the final three months of 2021, Counterpoint estimated.

“Apple’s stellar performance was driven by a mix of its pricing strategy and gain from Huawei’s premium base,” research analyst Mengmeng Zhang said in the report, which estimates sales of phones to end-users rather than shipments.

Globally, smartphone demand may remain depressed as inflationary pressures, an economic downturn and a slowing replacement cycle dampen sales, while a persistent chip shortage curtails output. Apple is said to have told its component suppliers that demand for the iPhone 13 lineup has weakened, signaling that some consumers have decided against trying to get the hard-to-find item.

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