Samsung Vanishes from China's 5G Phone Market

  • By Park Keon-hyung, Shin Eun-jin

    May 18, 2021 12:37

    Samsung has virtually disappeared from China's 5G smartphone market, which means that it has globally been outpaced not only by Apple but also Chinese rivals.

    Until a year ago, Samsung briefly had the top market share, but this first quarter it sold only 17 million 5G phones to account for a 12.7 percent market share, less than half of Apple's 30.2 percent or 40 million phones and behind OPPO's 21.6 million and Vivo's 19.4 million. Xiaomi is catching up fast with 16.6 million.

    The main reason is Samsung's near-total wipeout in the Chinese market, which accounts for 50 percent of global 5G phone sales.

    Until 2013, Samsung dominated the Chinese 5G phone market with a 20-percent market share. But an unofficial boycott in 2017 and incidents of Galaxy Note 7 handsets catching fire pushed Samsung's market share below one percent.

    Although Samsung regained its lead from Apple in overall global smartphone sales in the first quarter, Apple dominates the Chinese market for premium handsets and Huawei for cheaper smartphones.

    Samsung came up with a plan to introduce cheap models exclusively for Chinese consumers, but that did not work. In 2019, Samsung launched the world's first 5G smartphone in China, chose a Chinese company to make it and consolidated its operations in China. But its market share shrank further from 0.8 to 0.6 percent.

    "We're looking for ways to make consumers differentiate Samsung phones from iPhones and trying to work out a strategy for 5G smartphone marketing," a Samsung staffer said.

    Samsung is now taking a two-track approach to tackling the Chinese market with affordable phones and foldable handsets.

    Samsung's A series of 5G smartphones cost around W400,000 (US$1=W1,137). In the premium market, Samsung hopes to counter Apple with its foldable series like the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Z Flip 3 in August. The Galaxy Z Flip 3 is expected to be priced at around W1 million, compared to W1.65 million for its predecessor.

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