Rise of Chinese Brands in Smartwatch and Earphone Markets

Jack Leathem, a research analyst at Canalys, said that Xiaomi has overtaken Samsung and become the world's second-largest manufacturer by entering the mid-to-low-end market and launching products priced as low as $15, expanding its market share by 61%.

TMTPOST—With the release of the sales figures for wearable wristbands and personal smart audio devices for the first quarter, Apple's fall in sales for all products including smartphones is becoming evident.

According to Canalys data, there is a sign of recovery in the global market for personal smart audio devices in the first quarter of 2024, with a year-on-year increase of 6% and over 90 million units shipped. This growth is mainly attributed to the strong performance of true wireless Bluetooth earphones (TWS) and wireless headphones, with their shipment volumes increasing by 8% and 12% respectively.

Apple's revenue is primarily supported by smartphone sales, which account for over 50% of the total revenue. In the first quarter of this year, Apple's iPhone sales revenue decreased from $51.33 billion in the same period of the previous fiscal year to $45.96 billion, a decline of approximately 10.5%. In addition to the smartphone business, sales revenue for Apple's wearables, home, and accessories products, including the AirPods series, decreased from $8.76 billion to $7.91 billion, a year-on-year decline of approximately 9.7%.

Jack Leathem, a research analyst at Canalys, said that Xiaomi has overtaken Samsung and become the world's second-largest manufacturer by entering the mid-to-low-end market and launching products priced as low as $15, expanding its market share by 61%. Similarly, Huawei achieved a remarkable growth of 71% by introducing its first TWS product priced at less than $30 in overseas markets. Samsung has maintained its market competitiveness by bringing high-end active noise cancellation (ANC) technology to entry-level products.

To maintain high gross margins on its primary products, Apple has always refrained from engaging in price wars of "lower price for higher market share". The lowest-priced version of the AirPods series on official channels is priced at 999 yuan, far exceeding other similar products in the market.

This strategic choice means that when major market growth occurs in regions such as Latin America and the Middle East, the "expensive" Apple products will lose market share. Now, the same story is unfolding with Apple's smartwatch products.

In the first quarter of 2024, the shipment volume of wearable wristband devices worldwide reached 41.2 million units, remaining relatively stable compared to the same period last year. The rich functionality and affordable price of basic watches have driven the growth in shipment volume, making up for the overall decline in shipments caused by basic wristbands and smartwatches.

However, according to Apple's data, the global market share of wearable wristband devices (mainly smartwatches and smart wristbands) slid by 12% in the first quarter of this year. In Latin America, Apple's market share of smartwatches even decreased by about 40%.

During the same period, Xiaomi, mainly focusing on mid-to-low-end smartwatches/wristbands, saw its market share in Latin America increase by 46% year-on-year and by 67% in the Middle East. With its rich product portfolio of wristbands and rapid expansion overseas, Xiaomi's global market share increased by 38%, ranking second with a 15% share.

Although affordable products may attract early consumers, undesirable user experience may lead to backlash, which in turn affects the overall popularization of the product category, said Claire Qin, a research analyst at Canalys.

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