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Huawei Spinoff Is Lone Winner in Dire Year for China Smartphones

(Bloomberg) -- Honor Device Co. was the only major phone manufacturer to eke out growth in China shipments last year, defying a double-digit slump that delivered a decade low for the market.

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The former Huawei Technologies Co. sub-brand that was hived off as a separate business grew shipments by 34.4% in 2022, while peers like Oppo and Vivo were down by over 25%, according to the latest IDC data. Last year was the first time in 10 years that China shipments dipped below 300 million, concluding with 285.8 million handsets shipped.

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Honor’s share of the market, at 18.1%, was just behind leader Vivo. Oppo, Apple Inc. and Xiaomi Corp. completed the top five in the world’s biggest smartphone market. Apple had the largest share in the fourth quarter, its traditionally strongest season and when it typically becomes the top global phone manufacturer by volume. But its shipments in China too were down from 2021.

China’s strict Covid Zero policy impacted consumer demand with lockdowns of urban centers early in 2022. When restrictions were relaxed late in the year, the move led to nationwide infections and emptied streets in major cities, denting sales of consumer electronics.

Shenzhen-based Honor was sold to a Chinese state company-led consortium in 2020, helping a part of Huawei’s phone business sidestep crippling US sanctions that derailed the parent’s own operations. The youth-oriented brand has grown consistently since then and last year sought new funding as it prepared for an initial public offering.

Estimating market share in China can be challenging because of relatively lower transparency into retail channels. Counterpoint Research, which looks at sales rather than shipments, on Friday judged Vivo and Apple the two biggest phone brands in the country in 2022, with Honor coming in fourth behind Oppo with a market share of 16.7%.

--With assistance from Gao Yuan.

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