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Business trends

Smartphone shipments in China dive 11% in 2017

Consumer apathy spurs first double-digit drop in world's biggest market

Huawei's P10 Plus smartphone   © Reuters

GUANGZHOU -- Smartphone shipments in the Chinese market sank 11.6% last year to 461 million units, the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology said, as the market becomes saturated and new products fail to attract consumers.

China's smartphone market has grown rapidly since 2010 to become the world's largest, accounting for about 30% of the global market. This is the first time that shipments have fallen by double digits. The only other time shipments shrank was during China's economic slowdown in 2014, when an 8% drop was recorded. The current slide, however, occurred amid a brisk economy.

December shipments plunged 33.2% on the year to 40.36 million units. Such major players as Huawei, Oppo, Vivo and Apple all released new phones from September to December, but the market continued to flounder.

In addition to market saturation, the lack of momentum can be attributed to waning enthusiasm among consumers. Apple's iPhone X, released in the fall, failed to stand out as Chinese rivals like Oppo and Vivo included features similar to Apple's facial recognition technology in their own products.

The global smartphone market likely experienced growth in the low single digits in 2017, but could shrink this year should Chinese shipments slump further.

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