China-made mobile phones gaining popularity in Russia
- Major China mobile phone brands are seeing robust demand in Russia lately.
- Xiaomi, Realme and Honor alone accounted for almost half (42%) of Russia’s smartphone sales.
- South Korea’s Samsung even lost its spot as the market leader in May this year, with only 14% of devices sold versus 28% last year, while Apple’s share dropped to 9% from 12%.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has not bode well for its economy. In fact, it has been on a freefall mainly due to the mounting Western sanctions and lingering supply chain disruptions. Among the many brands that have ditched Russia, mobile phone giants Apple and Samsung were among the significant few. Whether or not that is a bane for Russians, the exodus of those players have bode well for China.
In fact, major Chinese smartphone brands are seeing robust demand in Russia lately, boosted by increased local consumer spending on essential electronics devices, as international sanctions against the invasion of Ukraine limited the options for consumers in the country. The smartphone market, according to Counterpoint Research, is expected to take a hit this year, after having slipped 7% year-on-year (YoY) in 2021.
According to data from mobile network MTS shared with Reuters, by May 2022, Chinese manufacturers Xiaomi, Realme and Honor accounted for almost half (42%) of Russia’s smartphone sales. The share marked a 28% increase YoY, an increase that aligns with the increased trade growth between both countries since Russia invaded Ukraine.
For context, China’s trade with Russia in the first month of 2022, according to Chinese customs data, saw a faster growth as Russia accelerated the shift of its supply chain to Asia amid US-led Western economic sanctions. Experts even foresee that China-Russia trade could surpass US$150 billion this year, as both sides aim to expand their economic and trade cooperation in the spirit of mutual benefit.
As smartphone brands from China gain a larger share of the pie, South Korea’s Samsung lost its spot as the market leader in May this year, with only 14% of devices sold versus 28% last year, and Apple’s share dropped to 9% from 12%. For context, Apple and Samsung stopped new product sales in Russia after Moscow sent its army into Ukraine in late February, but retailers have been able to use up existing stocks.
Overall smartphone sales were down 26% year-on-year, MTS said. Separately, a Model Sales Tracker by Counterpoint Research indicated that in terms of online smartphone sales, it reached its highest ever market share in the first quarter of this year at 36%. Ironically, online sales figures indicate that the top three smartphone brands were Samsung, Xiaomi and Apple, holding nearly 70% market share.
Research Director Tarun Pathak noted that while Chinese brands contributed 44% of the total market in 2021, it’s a slight decrease from the 46% share in 2020. The decline however is attributed to Huawei’s departure, but in general, Pathak agrees that Chinese brands are gaining again, especially Xiaomi, HONOR and realme.
Xiaomi has been steadily increasing its share in the market along with Samsung and Apple. To be fair, Russia’s “turn to the East” has been underway for around a decade, but has accelerated over time due to the Western sanctions. Following Russia’s invasion into Ukraine, China has been taking a pretty neutral stance on the former and has not exactly condemned the assault.
But the country has also been careful not to endorse Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine. All while it is trying to stick to its foreign-policy principles around sovereignty and attempting to prevent its relations with the US and Europe from completely collapsing.
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