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China's phone sales fell 4.9 percent in 2017

The decline, according to a market research report, is due to manufacturers offering "minor upgrades" that weren't enticing enough for users to upgrade.

huawei-mate-10-16-copy

Huawei received plenty of love from the Chinese in 2017, with its Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro being "quite popular" last quarter, according to IDC.

Ian Knighton/CNET

People bought fewer phones last year, even China, the world's biggest smartphone market, according to market researcher IDC.

China's smartphone market slid 15.7 percent year-over-year last quarter, according to a new report published by IDC yesterday. Throughout last year, it fell 4.9 percent.

The findings were released after IDC said last week that global shipment numbers fell 6.3 percent last quarter compared to the same quarter in 2016. The market slowdown in China is attributed to "minor upgrades" in new products that were insufficient to spur buyers to purchase new phones, according to IDC research manager, Tay Xiaohan.

Local brands received love in the market in 2017, with the top five brands accounting for 75.6 percent of market share. That's a growth from 66.5 percent in 2016.

The report showed Huawei topping the charts as China's favourite phone brand, having accumulated 20.4 percent of market share (up from 16.4 percent last year) and shipped 90.9 million units of devices. It is followed by Oppo at 18.1 percent then Vivo at 14.4 percent.

While Apple remains in the top five, it lost to Xiaomi, who claimed the fourth position on the list. The iPhone maker held that spot just a year ago, as Xiaomi was reeling from a trying year in 2016. It does, however, dominate the market for premium phones costing $600 and up, accounting for a whopping 85 percent of sales in that segment. Samsung, again, failed to make the list.

"The smaller players continued to suffer as the top five players grew their market share," added Xiaohan. "A key space to look out for in the coming year would be how the top smartphone companies seek to tickle the fancy of consumers through [sub] $200 products to drive consumer upgrades."

This sentiment is echoed by Canalys research analyst, Hattie He, who expects the decline to have a "detrimental impact" on Chinese companies that are heavily dependent on growth back home.

"It will affect their cash flow and profitability, limiting overseas expansion and bringing into question future survival," explained He, continuing that she expects a "major market shake up" in the country this year.

"There is little room left for the smaller vendors. The leading players will make aggressive plans to maintain or grow their market share."

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