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For a while it seemed like the Chinese smartphone market was an infinite growth machine. Companies would have rough patches but the overall field would always be on the up and up. Well those days are over. IDC estimates that Chinese smartphone shipments declined 4.9 percent in 2017 -- the first drop since 2009. The analyst firm pinned it primarily on "minor upgrades" to Chinese phones that weren't enough to spur a wave of new buyers. We'd add that the market is maturing. Much of the rapid growth from past years was sparked by a burgeoning Chinese middle class buying its first smartphones. Many of the people who could afford smartphones have them and they aren't always in a rush to upgrade.

在一段时期内,中国智能手机市场就像一台无限增长的机器。相关企业们可能遭遇过难关,但是该领域整体上一直在保持向上的势头。好吧,那样的日子结束了。据互联网数据中心估计,2017年中国智能手机出货量减少了4.9%——这是自2009年来的第一次缩减。分析机构将此主要归咎于中国手机的“少数升级”,因为它不足以刺激产生大波新的购买者。我们还将补充一点原因:那就是市场正在逐渐成熟。过去几年的快速增长主要是由于迅速发展的中国中产阶级购买了他们的第一支智能手机。很多负担得起智能手机的人将它们收入囊中,而他们并不总是有更新手机的冲动。

Not that the biggest phone makers are necessarily complaining. The drop mainly applied to smaller brands whose shipments plunged 31 percent -- the top five (Huawei Oppo Vivo Xiaomi and Apple) saw their numbers either dip only slightly or go up. The juggernaut of the bunch Huawei saw its shipments climb nearly 19 percent thanks to a range that covers everything from the lower end (like its Honor line) to high-end hardware like the Mate 10 Pro. And Xiaomi despite past troubles saw its shipments jump a staggering 32.6 percent. When big companies suffered it was usually due to inaccessible lineups. Vivo shifted away from low-end models in 2017 while Apple's premium range limited its real success to "tier 1" cities like Beijing or Shanghai.

那些最大的手机制造商们对此并不一定会抱怨纷纷。此次减少主要存在于小品牌手机上,它们的出货量急降了31%——行业前五(华为、OPPO、Vivo、小米和苹果)的出货量只是轻微下降,或者逆势增长。由于产品多样,既有低端线(比如荣耀系列)又有高端硬件产品如Mate 10 Pro,业界领头羊华为出货量增长将近19%。而小米,尽管曾陷入困境,出货量惊人地增长了32.6%。大企业遭遇难题往往是因为难以打破定位壁垒。2017年,Vivo摇身一变,不再是低端典型,而苹果的高价则将其成功限制在了北京、上海等“一线”城市。

If there's a consolation prize it's that high-end phones were having a field day last year. Apple dominated the space above $600 and Huawei's slice of that market jumped from 2 percent at the end of 2016 to 8 percent a year later. BBK's Oppo and Vivo badges may have taken a bruising in terms of sheer numbers but their shift away from lower-end phones helped them make more money overall. The question is whether or not that's a viable strategy in the long run. While targeting luxury buyers can be lucrative there are only so many of them to go around in a country where the average worker brings in just over $10000 per year. Those companies that care about more affordable devices will still have to court budget buyers if they want to thrive in China.

如果上年设一个安慰奖的话,那些高端系列手机将大显身手。苹果在600美元以上的手机市场中占据高地,而华为在该市场的份额从2016年末的2%一跃至一年后的8%。步步高公司的OPPO和Vivo在绝对数量上可能受挫,但是自低端手机的成功转型使它们总体上获得了更多利润。问题在于长远来看这是不是一个可行的策略。虽然瞄准高消费顾客可能有利可图,但是一个国家中他们的人数是有限的,而工薪层每年却能带来超过1万美元的收入。如果那些以低价设备为主打的公司想要在中国茁壮成长,那么它们将仍旧需要向精打细算的目标客户献殷勤。

China smartphone market share in 2017

中国前五智能手机企业     2017出货量              2017市场份额              2016出货量        2016市场份额           同比增长率