Smartphone shipments in China rose 92.8% year over year in January to 40.12 million units - continuing a demand recovery from the COVID-19 economic downturn that began in the fourth quarter.

January's shipments compared with a 12.8% year-on-year drop to 25.2 million units in December, the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology, a research institute under the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. The academy attributed the drop to weak demand for new phones and a trend among consumers to hold on to phones for longer.

Academy data shows 40 new smartphone models were released in January - up 17.6% on year. Chinese brands continued to dominate shipments in January with 33.73 million units. This was 84.1% of all shipments.

Domestic and foreign smartphone shipments were 39.57 million units in January, up 94.3% on year. The recovery compares with a 0.3% on-year increase to 86.4 million units in the fourth quarter of 2020.

Domestic smartphone shipments in 2020 fell 20.4% on year to 296 million units from 372 million units in 2019, the academy said. In 2019, smartphone shipments fell 4% on year.

However, International Data Corp. estimated China's smartphone market dropped 11.2% in 2020 with shipments of 326 million units.

Huawei's 38.3% was the largest smartphone market share in China in 2020. Vivo owned 17.7% of the market, Oppo 17.4%, Xiaomi 12% and Apple 11.1%. Xiaomi, however, staged a recovery in the second half of 2020 with its shipments increasing 29% on year.

By numbers of units shipped Huawei had 124.9 million in 2020. Oppo shipped 56.7 million units, Vivo 57.5 million, Xiaomi 39 million, Apple 36.1 million and others 11.5 million.

Handset sellers are optimistic of a recovery in sales as consumers purchased new 5G phones. Apple, Inc. released its first 5G smartphones in China last autumn.

The pandemic, however, saw reductions in demand for domestic brands Oppo, Vivo and Xiaomi. Huawei, the high-end market leader, continued to boost its market share until the second half when economic sanctions imposed by the U.S slowed down sales.