Europe buying more Chinese brands as smartphones bounce back • The Register

The first quarter of 2024 saw the European smartphone market register its first year-over-year increase in shipments since 2021, and Chinese brands are growing the most.

Smartphone shipments in the first quarter of the year were ten percent higher than in the first quarter of last year according to Counterpoint Research, ending a streak of back-to-back year-on-year declines since Q3 of 2021.

“The European market is showing signs of a recovery and consumer confidence is improving, helped by some interesting innovations around on-device AI,” said associate director Jan Stryjak at Counterpoint Research.

“But we are not out of the woods yet,” he cautioned. “Although we expect the market to grow by low single digits for the rest of 2024, this is still off the back of an extremely poor 2023, and we do not expect to return to pre-pandemic levels anytime soon.”

Counterpoint doesn’t delve into why its outlook is so gloomy, but we can probably guess it’s due to economic headwinds that have persisted globally since 2022. Inflation is still elevated in Europe and interest rates are still at a high (though reductions are probably on the horizon).

The report outlines that the biggest winners in Europe were Chinese phone brands, mainly Xiaomi, Realme, and Honor, which saw year-over-year shipment boosts of 11 percent, 59 percent, and 67 percent respectively. That’s in contrast to Samsung, whose shipments grew seven percent, and especially Apple, which actually saw a decline of one percent.

Xiaomi you’re not afraid of China tech threat

Chinese phone brands have enjoyed greater success in Central and Eastern Europe than the rest of the continent, where Xiaomi was number one for nearly two straight years. However, this quarter China’s smartphone vendors saw their greatest growth in Western Europe and lost ground elsewhere. Samsung overtook Xiaomi in Central and Eastern Europe, the first time since Q1 of 2022.

In terms of market share, Realme and Honor are still pretty small at four percent each, while Xiaomi has remained stable at 11 percent. Samsung and Apple are still the biggest brands, at 32 percent and 25 percent respectively. Plus, Apple’s sales have been dampened by the decreasing momentum of the iPhone 15. The lack of a new iPhone SE model also didn’t help.

While Europe’s and China’s smartphone markets are experiencing an upturn, the US buyers are still not taking the bait. Q1 saw shipments in America drop by eight percent year-over-year, though the comparison is somewhat pessimistic since Q1 of 2023 saw an unusually large shipment volume. ®

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