There's one place where Apple's brand isn't as strong as the rest

Apple remains an aspirational brand across most of the world, except China where the company is losing market share rapidly, according to UBS.

“Apple achieved its highest market share in four years in the US, Europe, Japan, and RoW,” said a UBS report authored by Steven Milunovich and Benjamin Wilson. “The exception was China, where share was down 17 points YoY as units fell 19%.”

Market share in Hong Kong and Taiwan was hit particularly strong, both down 50%.

The analysts used Gartner smartphone shipment data through December for their study of Apple’s performance in the “premium phone” market.

“Units sold outside the top five markets have grown the last three quarters,” they noted. “We view this as a sign that Apple remains an aspirational brand and can increase its penetration in smaller markets.” However, they cautioned, “double-digit growth in F18 requires the top five markets to grow. China will be the swing factor.”

UBS, however, predicted a likely turnaround. “We currently forecast Greater China down 12% for F17 jumping to up 20% in F18 with the rest of the world up 8-9% this year and 10%.”

Apple’s net sales in China dropped 12% in the first quarter of fiscal year 2017 compared to the same period last year. In its 10Q, Apple attributed the drop primarily to “lower net sales of iPhone and the effect of weakness in foreign currencies relative to the U.S. dollar.”

Oppo, Huawei, and Vivo are Apple’s main competitors in China, accounting for 45% of total sales.

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