Other indicators could point to iPhone weakness in China. The number of searches for iPhone on Chinese search engine Baidu dropped 48 percent in February, marking the fifth consecutive month of decline, according to Longbow Research. The firm argues that iPhone search trends on Baidu are indicative of demand in the China.

Analysts said that Apple was likely to have felt the pain of a slowing overall market, and low-cost rival Xiaomi could also suffer amid stiffer competition.

“Apple and Xiaomi continue to be the biggest losers whereas Huawei, Vivo and OPPO continue to grab more share away,” Neil Shah, research director at Counterpoint Research, told CNBC.

“The China market has become a zero sum game with replacement rates becoming slower in the premium end of the market and most folks are not upgrading their expensive and durable smartphones. Most of the growth is coming from mid-tier of the market where Huawei’s Honor brand, Nova series, and Oppo’s A series is doing quite well and affecting Xiaomi,” he added.

In response to an inquiry from CNBC, Xiaomi said it had “updated its multi-brand strategy in January,” and that its “shipments of Redmi Note 7, the first product launched following the new strategy, exceeded 1 million units within one month, consolidating our leading position in the smartphone markets.”

Apple was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.


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