Chinese telecoms equipment giant Huawei recaptured the lead in China’s smartphone market in Q1, boosting its market share to 18 per cent after increasing shipments 25 per cent year-on-year, according to Canalys.

After spending two quarters in second place behind Oppo, Huawei shipped nearly 21 million units in Q1 2017 (see chart below, click to enlarge), the research company revealed.

Despite growing shipments 55 per cent year-on-year in Q1, Oppo fell to second with just under 20 million units shipped. Third-placed Vivo had the slowest growth of the top three (23 per cent) and captured a 15 per cent share on shipments of 17 million units.

China’s smartphone market continued to expand in the opening quarter of 2017 despite rising penetration. Canalys estimates 114 million smartphones shipped in China during the period, an increase of 9 per cent year-on-year.

Canalys research analyst Lucio Chen said it is clear the market is consolidating: “The top three vendors are pulling away at the head of the market, accounting for more than 50 per cent of shipments for the first time this quarter.”

In the corresponding period of 2016, Huawei led, with Vivo second and Oppo fourth, together accounting for 42 per cent of the market. At the time Xiaomi occupied third place, but by the recent quarter had fallen to fifth behind Apple on shipments of just over 9 million units.

Xiaomi faces increasing pressure from Huawei’s online efforts with the Honor line, as well as Oppo and Vivo, whose marketing activities have been taking attention away from Xiaomi, said Canalys research analyst Mo Jia. “To grow Xiaomi will need to quickly switch from being a value-for-money vendor to become an aspirational brand.”