Every Second Counts: The Race For China’s Smartphone Crown

What Happened: Chinese smartphone company Huawei’s Mate 40 Pro will go on sale on Nov 13, pitting it against Apple’s latest iPhone 12. Pre-orders are already selling out quickly: on the first day of JD.com’s pre-order, products made available on the day sold out within 28 seconds – two seconds faster than the iPhone. Features like its Leica camera are no doubt helping it gain popularity among China’s social consumers while the company’s fashion-heavy credentials including a recent collaboration with Korean eyewear brand Gentle Monster are also raising its profile.

In September of 2019, the Mate 30 Series became the first phone to be affected by the US trade ban, which meant Google services were banned due to perceived security threats. The Mate 40 Pro will also suffer the same fate. However, despite the difficulties, Huawei’s Q1 (49 million) and Q2 (55.8 million) sales numbers combined indicated it has sold the most phones in 2020 so far, beating Samsung into second place. Apple finds itself in third place and could be losing its luster in China, too.

The Jing Take: China and the US are world leaders when it comes to building and deploying 5G technology. This latest release is Huawei’s third-generation 5G phones (Apple is on its first generation), making it more powerful than the iPhone. In addition to more advanced tech, as global sales have grown, Huawei has expanded domestically, too. In fact, its image at home has been raised by the Trump controversy and US trade tensions.

But given the tight market share between the two, the battlefield is not clearly defined yet. Few brands can beat Apple’s desirability and the magic of its branding – not least China’s netizens who love to discuss its products online. Trending on Weibo, the #iPhone12 tag reached over six billion views after its release. Much of this chatter has been negative — either criticizing the smartphone’s price tag or negatively comparing it to Huawei and other domestic players like Xiaomi. But, as the saying goes, there is only one thing worse than being talked ill about: not being talked about at all.

The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.


Market Analysis