Huawei's rising challenge to Apple in smartphones

Global sales of smartphones to end users totalled 380m units in the first quarter of 2017, a 9.1% increase over the first quarter of 2016, according to analyst house Gartner. It added that mobile phone buyers are also spending more to get a better phone, resulting in a rise in average selling prices.

Chinese manufacturers such as Huawei, Oppo and Vivo are continuing to build market share, with their combined cut in the first quarter of 2017 at 24%, up 7% year-on-year.

"The top three Chinese smartphone manufacturers are driving sales with their competitively priced, high quality smartphones equipped with innovative features," said Anshul Gupta, an analyst at Gartner.

Leader Samsung's smartphone sales declined 3.1% in the first quarter. "Although Samsung announced that pre-orders for the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus are up 30% year-on-year, the absence of an alternative to Note 7 [withdrawn on fire safety grounds] and the fierce competition in the basic smartphone segment are leading Samsung to continuously lose market share," said Gupta.

"Sales of iPhones were flat, which led to a drop in market share year-on-year. Similar to Samsung, number two Apple is increasingly facing fierce competition from Chinese brands Oppo and Vivo, among others, and its performance in China is under attack."

Huawei edged closer to Apple with smartphone sales amounting to 34 million units in the first quarter of 2017, although it is still almost 5% behind in sold units. Despite its P9 and P9 Plus being available for more than a year now, both smartphones continued to sell well, positioning Huawei as a dominant brand in the consumer market. "Huawei has now steadily held the third spot in the worldwide ranking of smartphone vendors," said Gupta. "However, pressure is mounting as its counterparts in China are catching up."