Chinese phone vendors all-in on 5G, market share set to break 50%

By Zhang Hongpei Source:Global Times Published: 2020/5/27 20:03:40


A 5G technology exhibition is held in Hangzhou, East China's Zhejiang Province in January, 2019. Photo: Xinhua

Chinese smartphone vendors are swiftly shifting focus from 4G devices to launching 5G models, despite the impact of the coronavirus on the industry chain. 

Shipments of 5G phones could take a market share of almost 50 percent in the near future, industry analyst said.

Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun, a deputy to the National People's Congress, the top lawmaking body, told the Xinhua News Agency in a recent interview that the company cleared its 4G phone inventories in China at the end of 2019 and is now all-in on 5G.

"Our warehouses are empty but the output of 5G phones cannot quickly fill the gap, which was mainly caused by the COVID-19 epidemic," said Lei, adding that despite the impact, Xiaomi will continue to promote 5G smartphones.

Xiaomi said earlier that it planned to roll out at least 10 models of 5G smartphones in 2020.

The Global Times learned that other domestic phone vendors such as OPPO and Vivo also shifted their focus from 4G phones to 5G devices as early as the end of last year.

Huawei took the lead in China's 5G smartphone market in the first quarter of 2020, the company said at its 2020 Global Analyst Summit. As of the end of March, shipments of Huawei's 5G smartphones hit15 million units, topping the rankings with a 55.4-percent market share in China, said Sheng Xing, vice president of Huawei's consumer business mobile phone product line.

Huawei has released more than a dozen 5G models. The starting price of the recently launched Huawei Enjoy Z 5G smartphone, featuring a relatively high-end MediaTek chip, was 1,699 yuan ($238).

With competition in the 5G segment intensifying, prices will fall to about 1,000 yuan, and more models with high performance-price ratios will be launched in the second half of this year, said Fu Liang, a Beijing-based telecom industry expert.

"Meanwhile, there's still demand for 4G phones, and absorbing those inventories represents a natural market process," Fu said.

Sun Yanbiao, head of Shenzhen-based research firm N1mobile, told the Global Times that phone inventories are low in the wake of two months of market uptake. Inventories reportedly peaked at 30 million units in March with 4G phones taking the vast majority.

"Sales of 5G phones will likely reach 50 percent of the total," Sun said.

Total shipments of 5G phones hit 16.38 million in April, accounting for 39.3 percent of the total, according to the CAICT, a research institute under the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. In the January-April period, 5G phones' market share was 33.6 percent.

US tech giant Apple is reportedly set to release four models of 5G smartphones. The iPhone 12, which is expected to be its first 5G phone, could boost its 5G sales, said Fu.

Minister of Industry and Information Technology Miao Wei said on Monday that more than 10,000 5G base stations are being added per week in China. Meanwhile,5G subscribers increased by 7 million in April, driving cumulative users to 36 million. 

The commercial use of 5G networks in China started in June 2019. 


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