Galaxy S8 in China
Samsung Electronic's Galaxy S8 and S8 are displayed at its store in Seoul, South Korea, April 27, 2017.REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

Samsung, the world's leading smartphone vendor, continues to lose ground to local manufacturers in China. In the first quarter of 2017, the company's smartphone sales in the country dropped by more than half while Chinese brands, including Huawei, Oppo and Vivo, experienced significant growth in market share.

Counterpoint Technology Market Research, a Hong Kong-based research firm, said in its latest report that Samsung's shipment of smartphones in the region plunged by around 60 percent year-on-year to 3.5 million units in the January-March period. The company's market share also fell to 3.5 percent during the first quarter from 8.7 percent in the same period a year earlier.

When it comes to local brands, shipments of Huawei, Oppo and Vivo smartphones rose by 25 percent, 81 percent and 60 percent, respectively. In terms of market share, Huawei led the pack with 19.7 percent of the Chinese market, followed by Oppo (17.5 percent), Vivo (17.1 percent), Apple (10.1 percent) and Xiaomi (8 percent).

"Oppo and vivo were the fastest growing brands followed by Huawei, together cementing the top three spots and extending their lead over Apple, Xiaomi and Samsung by a widening margin," Neil Shah, a researcher at Counterpoint Technology Market Research, said in a statement. "Apple's performance has become very seasonal, while Xiaomi and Samsung are losing to Huawei (Honor) and the Oppo-Vivo onslaught respectively."

Smartphone growth China
Samsung struggles with its smartphone business in China.Counterpoint Technology Market Research

According to industry observers, the strong sales of Chinese handsets were largely attributed to their affordable prices, convenient distribution channels and localized app services. Samsung's devices, on the other hand, are more expensive than the local handsets offering competitive specs with reasonable price tags.

For example, Xiaomi last month unveiled its latest flagship smartphone, the Mi 6, which is apparently a powerful hardware but at a relatively affordable price. More importantly, it comes with similar specs as the Samsung Galaxy S8 for almost $400 less.

Smartphone market share division in Q1 2017 in China.Counterpoint Technology Market Research

Nevertheless, the Galaxy S8 is expected to help Samsung to get some of its lost momentum back once it reaches consumers in China. While Samsung released the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ to global markets on April 21 and the devices are now on sale in major markets around the world, Chinese consumers are yet to get their hands on the smartphones.

According to reports, Samsung will launch the Galaxy S8 handsets on May 18 in Beijing, with pre-orders taking place earlier on May 10, followed by sales on May 25.

As for the pricing, the Galaxy S8 could cost around 5,050 yuan, while the Galaxy S8 Plus might cost consumers around 5,670 yuan. A 6GB RAM variant with 128GB of storage is also rumoured to land in China with a price tag of around 6,200 yuan.