Lukewarm 5G smartphone sales in China prior to network rollout

By Wei Sheng
1 min read
Huawei’s cell phones sit on display in a Shanghai showroom on March 22, 2019. (Image credit: TechNode/Cassidy McDonald)

Chinese vendors in August sold 291,000 5G phones or less than 1% of the country’s overall mobile phone shipments despite efforts to boost slowing smartphone sales by offering new, cutting-edge handsets.

Why it matters: The gloomy sales signal skepticism from Chinese consumers about pricey 5G handsets prior to widespread rollout of the next-generation networks.

  • China’s three major carriers were granted commercial licenses for the next-generation wireless technology in June, but there has been no publicized launch date for 5G network services.
  • A United States export ban on Chinese telecommunications equipment maker Huawei, which is also a major 5G gear supplier for Chinese carriers, may delay 5G network rollouts.

Details: August smartphone shipments were down 5.3% year-on-year to 30.9 million units in China, according to a report by the China Academy for Information and Communications Technology.

  • 4G phones remain the majority of the country’s mobile phone sales with 29.5 million units sold.
  • Nine 5G smartphones went on sale in China in the first eight months of this year.

Chinese buyers shrug off lack of 5G as orders for Apple’s iPhone 11 surge

Context: Smartphone vendors are scrambling to offer handsets compatible with next-generation wireless networks amid a saturated and slowing smartphone market.

  • Smartphone makers such as Huawei, Xiaomi, ZTE, and Samsung all have their 5G smartphone models on sale in the Chinese market.
  • Relatively high prices for 5G handsets have also excluded many consumers. On the low end of the range, Vivo’s iQOO Pro 5G is priced at RMB 3,798 (around $534.8) while Samsung’s Note 10+ 5G is the most expensive at RMB 7,999 (around $1,126).
  • Experts expect (in Chinese) that prices for 5G handsets be as low as RMB 1,000 by 2020.
  • Sales for Apple’s iPhone 11 series soared in China after pre-orders opened on Friday despite the absence of a 5G-compatible version.