Huawei Overtakes Xiaomi To Top China’s Smartphone Market For First Time: Report

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Huawei, the Chinese tech firm that produces smartphones in addition to networking equipment, became the top seller of smartphones in China for the first time during the last quarter.

That’s according to data from research firm Canalys, which said that an 81 percent surge in sales year-on-year pushed Huawei past Xiaomi, which held the top spot during the previous quarter of business.

Canalys made the announcement as a precursor to the release of its full figures for Chinese smartphone sales in Q3 2015, so we don’t yet know where Apple, Samsung, or others rank for the three-month period. Crucially, nor do we have sales/marketshare figures. For example, it seems likely that Canalys is comparing sales-in figures for Huawei (i.e. channel and consumer sales) with sales-out (direct to consumers) for Xiaomi. A fair match, because that’s how they both do sales, but worth noting all the same.

Despite jumping the gun with a media release devoid of any details — it’s a little worrying to see that analyst firms are increasingly keen to beat each other to making big reveals without providing the workings behind their claims — Canalys believes that Xiaomi, which edged Samsung to become China’s biggest smartphone seller in 2014, is going through a tricky period on home soil.

Xiaomi claimed to have sold 61 million smartphones in China during 2014, but the firm is struggling to reach its goal of 80 million for this year — a figure that was reduced from an original target of 100 million — according to Canalys.

The company, which expanded to Latin America this summer, sold nearly 35 million phones during the first half of 2015, is “under tremendous pressure to keep growing as an international player as it is slowing down in its key home market,” said Canalys analyst Jessie Ding in a statement.

Xiaomi, for its part, told TechCrunch that the analysis could be down to timing:

“We just released Redmi Note 2 in mid August and Mi 4c in late September, which means our product lineup went through a transition period in Q3 2015, and we had to ramp up supply gradually to meet demand,” a spokesperson said.

Finally, TechCrunch understands that the gap between Xiaomi and Huawei’s figures — according to Canalys’ research — is not huge. So a change in leadership is more a testament to Huawei’s progress than any major crisis at Xiaomi. (Though let’s see if it can hit that sales target for 2015.)

Banned from selling networking gear to the U.S. government last year, Huawei’s consumer electronics business is taking off with a series of appealing devices. An Android smartwatch, a smartphone with an Apple-style 3D Touch feature, and the impressive Google Nexus-branded Nexus 6P are all fruits of its labor.

Update: Proof that the gap between Huawei and Xiaomi is a slender one, another analyst firm (IHS) ranked Xiaomi top for the same quarter as Xiaomi pointed out — perhaps with some satisfaction — on Twitter.