OPPO has risen through the ranks to become the number one smartphone brand in China for the first time in January 2021, according to Counterpoint Research’s Market Pulse Service. OPPO’s market share reached 21% in January followed by it’s related BBK brand Vivo at 20% and Huawei, Apple, and Xiaomi at 16% each. OPPO’s sales grew 33% month-on-month (MoM) and 26% year-on-year (YoY) during the month.

Commenting on OPPO’s feat, Varun Mishra, Senior Analyst at Counterpoint Research noted:

“OPPO has been successfully able to reposition its product lines in 2020. The rebranding of the Reno series and launching a more capable device at a lower price point than its predecessor helped OPPO capture the affordable premium segment. The strong momentum of the A series in the mid segment strengthened the product portfolio for OPPO and it was able to cater to the 5G demand in China across a wide price band. This was further helped by the decline of Huawei.”

Huawei along with HONOR has been constantly losing its share in the Chinese market due to component shortages following US sanctions, and fewer new launches. Its inventory for key components has been depleting and it will not be able to source 5G smartphone components. Over 65% of devices sold in China in Q4 2020 were 5G capable. Any absence of 5G models reduces the addressable market size for Huawei in China while the absence of Google services does the same for 4G devices.

To make the most of its depleting inventory of components, Huawei has shifted its focus more towards the premium segment, only selling products with higher margins. This has further left a gap in the mid segment of the market.

Due to insufficient supplies, the distributors in China are also scaling down their Huawei operations and shifting to other brands. OPPO’s growth was in part also driven by Huawei’s decline, a trend that also benefitted Xiaomi and vivo.

Xiaomi is benefiting the most from the decline in Huawei’s online share, while OPPO and vivo have been capturing the offline segment. At its peak, Huawei had more than 10,000 retail and experience stores across China. This number has been decreasing since Q4 2020.

Huawei has also spun off HONOR as a separate brand. With HONOR now being considered as a separate brand, it further reduces Huawei’s market share in China.

Unless US sanctions are relaxed, Huawei’s declining trend will continue during the remainder of 2021 with other OEMs gaining share from the gap created by its decline.