Apple’s smartphone shipments in China tumbled 19 per cent in the first quarter of the year, the worst performance since 2020, as the iPhone maker took a hit from Huawei’s (HWT.UL) new product launches in the premium segment, market data showed.

Apple’s share in the world’s biggest smartphone market fell to 15.7 per cent in the first quarter from 19.7 per cent a year earlier. That put it almost level with Huawei, which saw sales jump 70 per cent, according to research firm Counterpoint.

Apple (AAPL.O) lost its crown as the biggest smartphone seller in China to rival Vivo, sliding to third place in the quarter, followed by Huawei whose market share jumped to 15.5 per cent from 9.3 per cent a year earlier. Honor, a mass market brand spun out of Huawei, was in second place.

“Huawei’s comeback has directly impacted Apple in the premium segment. Besides, the replacement demand for Apple has been slightly subdued compared to previous years,” said Counterpoint analyst Ivan Lam in a press release.

“For the second quarter, the possibility of new color options combined with aggressive sales initiatives could bring the brand back into positive territory,” Lam said, adding it is seeing slow but steady improvement in weekly iPhone sales.

China is Apple’s third-biggest market and generated around 17 per cent of its total revenue in the October-December quarter.

Its market share loss in China comes after separate data showed earlier this month that the US firm suffered nearly a 10 per cent drop in global smartphone shipments in the first quarter of 2024, hurt by intensifying competition by Android smartphone makers led by Samsung Electronics (005930.KS).

Samsung clinched the top phonemaker spot from Apple in the first quarter.

Shares of Apple slipped 0.4 per cent in premarket trade on Tuesday. The stock has fallen about 14 per cent so far this year and posted its worst weekly performance in over eight months on Friday.

Throughout the first quarter, Apple launched campaigns in China to entice consumers with discounts, including subsidizing certain iPhone models by as much as 1,300 yuan ($180).

Huawei last week released its Pura 70 series of high-end phones after launching the Mate 60 series in August. The Mate 60 was seen as a comeback for the Chinese firm in the high-end market and described as a triumph over US sanctions on the company, as the handsets contain an advanced China-made chip.

US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said on Sunday that the chip powering Huawei’s flagship phone is not as advanced as American chips, arguing it showed US curbs on shipments to the telecoms equipment giant are working.

Canadian research firm TechInsights expects overall shipments in China this year to top 50 million units, including 10 million for the Pura 70 series. That would make Huawei the No. 1 seller with a 19 per cent market share, up from 12 per cent in 2023.

In the first quarter, China’s smartphone market grew 1.5 per cent, marking the second consecutive quarter of positive growth, according to Counterpoint.