Apple shipped 10.9 million iPhones to China in the final quarter of 2018, or 22 percent less than the 14 million it shipped at the end of 2017. For the full year, 2018 iPhone shipments reached 34.2 million units, down from 36.7 million in 2017.
Overall smartphone shipments in China fell 11 percent year over year, down from 121 million units in Q4 2017 to 108 million units this year. It was the fifth consecutive quarter that smartphone shipments fell in China.
Full-year smartphone shipments to China declined 11 percent too, down from 460 million in 2017 to 408 million in 2018.
"The Chinese smartphone market is in recession and has declined for five consecutive quarters. The smartphone market is suffering from longer replacement cycles and weak consumer spending," says Yiwen Wu, a senior analyst at Strategy Analytics.
iPhone shipments in China have now fallen year over year for eight of the past 12 quarters, according to Strategy Analytics.
"Apple is in danger of pricing the iPhone out of China," said Linda Sui, director at Strategy Analytics.
Of the top five vendors, only Huawei and Vivo increased shipments in China year over year. Huawei, the top vendor, saw shipments rise from 24.3 million in Q4 2017 to 30 million in Q4 2018, with annual shipments up about 15 million to 105 million.
Vivo, the third largest vendor in China, shipped 22.2 million in Q4 2018, up from 20.5 million a year ago.
The top five vendors in descending order in Q4 2018 were Huawei, Oppo, Vivo, Apple, and Xiaomi. However, on a yearly basis Apple was the fifth largest vendor by shipments.
Apple is scheduled to report its first quarter earnings next Tuesday, which corresponds to the fourth quarter of 2018. Apple recently cut its revenue forecast by up to $9bn on earlier estimates, citing poor sales in China. Apple CEO Tim Cook said the company didn't foresee the magnitude of China's slowdown.
Apple has issued its first profit warning since 2002, and the first since the company entered into the smartphone era. But a situation that might be gloomy for investors will be good news for those who want to buy Apple products.