(Bloomberg) -- Apple Inc. bagged a significant smartphone shipment jump in China last month as the world’s largest consumer electronics market heads into its holiday season, official data indicate.

The iPhone maker’s shipments in China grew 18.7% year on year in December to roughly 3.18 million units, according to Bloomberg calculations based on government data on overall and Android device shipments. The increase marked an acceleration from the prior months, which were buoyed by the iPhone 11’s release in September. The numbers come from the China Academy of Information and Communication Technology, a government think tank.

Apple made major strides in increasing battery life in its iPhone 11 and 11 Pro devices while lowering the starting price by $50. After years of stagnation in cameras, the company also overhauled the iPhone’s image quality in 2019, catching up to category leaders Google and Huawei Technologies Co. This approach drew an overwhelmingly positive reception from critics.

The surge in shipments gives reason for optimism around Apple’s smartphone sales in the buildup to the Chinese New Year, which falls in late January this year. China’s overall smartphone shipments in December fell short of 30 million units, a 13.7% decrease compared to the same period in 2018, according to CAICT.

The Cupertino, California-based company is fighting an uphill battle against a group of local vendors led by Huawei, which gained a dominant position in 2019 despite facing sanctions and struggles abroad. As the year progresses, Apple’s lack of 5G-enabled devices and inability to get its full range of online services past Chinese censors will make sustaining this initial shipment improvement an uncertain task.

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Gao Yuan in Beijing at ygao199@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Edwin Chan at echan273@bloomberg.net, Vlad Savov, Colum Murphy

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