Beijing — Apple’s Chinese smartphone shipments plummeted an estimated 20% in 2018’s final quarter, underscoring the scale of the iPhone maker’s retreat in the world’s largest mobile device arena against local rivals such as Huawei. The domestic market contracted 9.7% in the quarter, but Apple declined at about twice that pace, research firm IDC said in a report on Monday. A slowing economy, lengthening replacement times and the iPhone’s hefty price tag contributed to the US giant’s decline, it said. Xiaomi fared even worse in the final months of 2018, when shipments plunged almost 35%, the consultancy estimates. Smartphone labels from Apple to Samsung are contending with a plateauing global market after years of breakneck growth, as a lack of innovation discourages consumers from replacing devices as often as they used to. Apple also has to cope with the rise of Huawei, which is eroding its share of a market once pivotal to driving its growth. The country’s top electronics retailers...

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