The Chinese smartphone maker saw its market share drop to 22% in China, from 38% a year earlier.

Chinese Huawei’s market share in its country for smartphones collapsed in the last quarter of 2020 under the effect of US sanctions, according to figures released Friday by the research firm Canalys. The former US administration of President Trump has long accused Huawei, a specialist in 5G technology and the world’s second-largest phone maker, of potential spying for the benefit of Beijing, which the group denies.

In 2019, Huawei was blacklisted to prevent it from acquiring much-needed US technologies for its phones. According to the Canalys study, this situation weighed on the sales of the Chinese giant in its market at the end of 2020. In the fourth quarter, Huawei sold 18.8 million phones in China (-44% over one year). And its market share in the country fell to 22%, down from 38% a year earlier.

“This is probably the most difficult period for Huawei, which can no longer even fulfill orders on its domestic market” because of US sanctions, notes Canalys analyst Nicole Peng. ince September, Huawei, for example, can no longer equip its high-end devices with new Kirin chips, which the group does not have the capacity to replace internally. And the firm no longer has access to updates to Android, the operating system of the American Google, which is ultra dominant on phones.

Apple in fourth place

In China, Huawei is still the leading seller of smartphones by a short head, but it is now closely followed by its compatriots Oppo (20% market share) and Vivo (19%). The American Apple is fourth with 18% of the market, “its best performance in China for years”, according to Canalys. In 2019, a small minority of Chinese had yet called to “boycott the brand’s iPhones” and to unite behind their champion Huawei, in the face of sanctions from Washington.

Over the whole of 2020, Huawei nevertheless maintains a comfortable lead over its competitors in China (38% market share against 18% for Oppo, second). Struggled by US sanctions, Huawei was forced to sell its entry-level smartphone brand, Honor, in November. Earlier this week, Huawei denied wanting to separate from the rest of its smartphone activities.