Now it's official: Things were pretty lousy for Apple in China during the 2018 holiday quarter. The company’s latest earnings report shows that revenue fell nearly by US$5 billion from a year ago, as sales of iPhones and other major products all dipped.

To be fair though, it’s been a bad time for almost everyone selling in China. People just aren’t buying as many smartphones as before. Last year’s third quarter saw a year-on-year decline in overall shipments, according to market research firm IDC.

But if you look at the top five, Apple experienced the steepest drop. And contrary to the American market, Apple isn’t the dominant brand in China. Instead, it trails four domestic companies -- most of which don’t sell in the US. Here’s a look at who they are.


Vivo belongs to the same parent company that owns a brand that might be more familiar to Americans: OnePlus. Over the last year, Vivo has been experimenting with some daring designs. You may have heard of the phone with a pop-up selfie camera. Or the one that’s got screens on both the front and back. Lately, it also showed off a handset with no ports or buttons.

Ironically though, one of Vivo’s best-selling models this year was the X21 -- an iPhone X lookalike complete with a notch, a glass back, and a rear dual-camera.

The Vivo X21 (right) and the NEX Dual-Display Version (left). (Picture: Vivo)


Oppo is another sister company of Vivo, which explains why their phones share certain similarities. The Oppo Find X also has a motorized pop-up camera module, just like the the Vivo NEX. The Oppo R15 also has a notch at the top of the display, just like the Vivo X21.

The camera module on the Oppo Find X (Picture: Abacus)

But none of those beat the Oppo A5 -- the best-selling smartphone in China during 2018 Q3, according to Counterpoint Research. The handset comes with a giant 4230mAh battery that promises to let you stream video for 14 hours straight. There’s also a face unlock feature, as well as a dual back camera. But the most relevant feature is probably the price: Just US$200.

The Oppo A5 is one of the many Android handsets that embraced the iPhone-like notch last year. (Picture: Oppo)


Globally, Huawei shipped fewer smartphones than Apple in 2018 Q3. But in China, Huawei is the market leader -- and there’s no question it’s trying to compete with Apple at the high end. 

Last year, it tweeted what looked like a stab at the iPhone XS just days before it launched its flagship Mate 20 Pro -- a specs monster with 3D facial recognition, an in-screen fingerprint sensor, and wireless charging support.

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro also has a triple-camera system on the back. (Picture: Huawei)

But while Huawei also make cheap phones under its main brand, it has a separate sub-brand Honor that often incorporates high-end features from Huawei devices in budget handsets. The US$130 Honor 7C was China’s best-selling smartphone in 2018 Q2, according to Counterpoint Research.


Xiaomi’s budget phones seem to be selling much better than the fancy ones. It could be one of the reasons why it’s doubling down on cheap phones, spinning off a budget brand called Redmi this year.

(The funny thing is that Huawei created Honor to better compete with Xiaomi, and now Xiaomi is creating Redmi to better compete with Honor.)

It’s also branched out with selfie-focused handsets, as well as gaming phones.

The Black Shark Helo is a gaming focused handset, which means it's all edgy and green. (Picture: Black Shark)