Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus was the second-best selling phone in China last year

Key Points
  • The Apple iPhone iPhone 7 Plus gained 2.8 percent of all smartphone sales in China, according to Counterpoint Research
  • The U.S. technology giant was the only foreign brand to have a smartphone model in the top 10 best-selling handsets in China in 2017
  • The Oppo R9s was the best-selling smartphone in China in 2017
A man looks at iPhone 7 series product at an Apple store on September 16, 2016 in Beijing, China.
Li Sanxian | VCG | Getty Images

Apple was the only foreign brand to have a smartphone model in the top 10 best-selling handsets in China in 2017.

The iPhone 7 Plus managed 2.8 percent of all sales in the world's largest smartphone market, according to data from Counterpoint Research released Monday. Apple's large-screen device trailed the Oppo R9s which gained 3 percent market share.

Apple's iPhone 7, which was released in September 2016, did well in the first half of 2017, then benefited in the second half thanks to a price cut in China, Counterpoint analyst James Yan said in a blog post Monday.

Yan said the iPhone 7 Plus with the 128GB hard drive saw its price slashed around 16 percent.

The smaller-screen iPhone 7 was the fifth best-selling device in China with 2.4 percent market share.

"iPhone 7 Plus performed better than iPhone 7, demonstrating that currently in China market price may not be the only concern among consumers. Apple users may value more on better specs ... than extra budget," Yan said.

Vivo's X9 and the Oppo A57 made up the other two phones in the best-selling smartphone top five list from Counterpoint.

Apple has struggled in the past two years in China but recent earnings show signs of a turnaround taking place. In the technology giant's fiscal fourth quarter, revenue from Greater China was up 12 percent year-on-year.

China is an incredibly competitive smartphone market, and one where Samsung used to dominate. But it is now controlled by local Chinese players. Huawei accounted for 19.4 percent market share in the third quarter of 2017, followed by Oppo, Vivo, Xiaomi and then Apple, according to IDC data.

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Huawei has been spending aggressively on marketing and this has paid off. It is now the third-biggest smartphone maker in the world by market share. The technology giant has gained share by releasing several smartphones at different price points to appeal to a broad range of consumers.

Oppo and Vivo, which are both owned by BBK Electronics in China, grew rapidly last year. They sell high spec phones at a mid-tier price in China, and have managed to gain share by selling their devices via offline channels, allowing them to expand their reach into smaller towns and cities.

"Instead of filling the market with extensive selection of models (like Samsung), OPPO have comparatively offered limited number of models and put more muscles behind promotion of key products," Yan said.

Best-selling smartphones in China in 2017:

  • Oppo R9s
  • iPhone 7 Plus
  • Vivo X9
  • Oppo A57
  • iPhone 7
  • Oppo R11
  • Vivo Y66
  • Honor 8 Lite
  • Xiaomi RedMI Note 4X
  • Honor Enjoy 6X