Apple arch-rival Xiaomi is now China's biggest smartphone seller
In 2013, Xiaomi's market share of smartphone shipments was 5.3%. In 2014, that rose to 12.5%, according to new data from IDC. In doing so, it unseated Samsung: The beleaguered South Korean manufacturer's market share of shipments dropped from 18.8% to just 7.9% over the same timeframe.
Samsung has had a difficult year. It has seen its profits crater in recent months, something commonly attributed to the runaway success of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Previous data from the South Korean market, for example, shows that Apple's rise in the country almost perfectly mirrors Samsung's decline.
Apple's shipments in China have also grown markedly over the last year. In Q3 of 2013 it was 7.4%; a year later, and it was 12.3%. But the ongoing rise of Xiaomi shows that Apple's not the only smartphone company seeing growth in Asia.
Xiaomi is sometimes referred to as the "Apple of China," and has been criticised for producing devices that bear remarkable similarities to iPhones. Apple design boss Jony Ive has labelled the designs of Xiaomi's phones as "theft." But its more recent models have eschewed the Apple aesthetic in favour of a simple, elegant glass design. And as IDC's data shows, they're highly successful.
Xiaomi pursues a very different business model to Apple, selling high-spec smartphones for low prices. The average price of Android devices are dropping around the globe - but Xiaomi handsets retail for even less than that average. And despite this, reviews suggest that their products may actually be technically superior to Apple's.
Asia is an increasingly important market for Apple. Analysts believe it sold more iPhones in the China than it did in the US in 2014. Apple is also doubling down on its retail presence in the country. This is why Xiaomi's ongoing success is a big deal for Apple - China is now essentially Apple's most important market. Almost uniquely for an Android smartphone manufacturer, Xiaomi has created a famously devoted fanbase, and it's now producing a line of products that can go toe-to-toe with the iPhone.
For now, this conflict is confined to Asian markets. Xiaomi exec Hugo Barra has said we shouldn't expect to see the company's smartphones sold in the West for a "few years." But Xiaomi is already starting to make inroads. In the first half of 2015, the company is to begin sales in Brazil - Latin America's single-largest economy. And in the coming months, it also plans to start selling earbuds, wristbands and small branded accessories in the US.
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