At the high end of the smartphone market, Apple and Samsung continue to dominate as other global brands fight for scraps. This has been the case in the industry for quite some time now, and at this rate it's not likely to change anytime soon. At the low end of the market though, something curious has happened over the past few years. A wave of China-based companies has stormed the market with surprisingly capable smartphones being sold at incredibly low prices, and they have stolen a massive chunk of business from established players like Samsung, LG and HTC.
Of all the companies analysts thought might be able to fight back against these budget brands, Apple certainly wasn't at the top of any lists — but it looks like that's exactly what's happening.
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In the grand scheme of things, Apple's new iPhone SE isn't terribly affordable. The $399 to $499 price range is a bargain compared to other iPhones, but perfectly capable handsets can be purchased from Chinese Android phone vendors for half the price. One such company called Xiaomi has built a massive business worth billions by copying Apple's playbook but selling low-cost smartphones instead of high-end handsets.
Samsung in particular has had a great deal of trouble with these budget brands in recent years. The company's profits slid for seven consecutive quarters at one point thanks largely to pressure from these Chinese companies. Apple, on the other hand, has never fought at the low end of the market, so the impact felt from these brands hasn't been anywhere near as powerful.
Interestingly, a new report claims it's now Apple that is stealing market share away from more aggressive Chinese brands thanks to the lower-cost iPhone SE.
"The launch of relatively low-priced iPhone SE in China has squeezed market share from local brands, including Huawei, Xiaomi Technology, Vivo and Oppo, affecting the earning performance of these brands," Digitimes said in a new report.
Of note, the site's supply chain sources have been hit or miss in the past. But other reports have also suggested the iPhone SE has been a strong performer in the region, with preorders at third-party retailers alone said to have reached 3.4 million units ahead of launch.