According to consumer research firm Kantar Worldpanel, the latest number for smartphone sales in China has Apple’s market share rising to 27.6 percent from the 25 percent in from December to February, 2015.

Apple’s overall share increased 9.7 percentage points year-over-year, surpassing local brand Xiaomi for the first time.

According to Kantar, China’s top three smartphones in the last three months ending February were the iPhone 6, followed by Xiaomi’s Redmi Note and then Apple again with the iPhone 6 Plus.

Apple plans to roll out around 20 new China stores by 2016, likely located in glitzy locations and rubbing shoulders with outlets for luxury brands such as Chanel and Hermes International SCA (HRMS.PA).

For Apple, brick-and-mortar stores help it maintain a premium image, from the product to in-store service and even packaging, allowing the firm to charge far higher prices than rivals - vital to its enviable profit margins.

Past data showed Apple outsold all other smartphone makers in China by units shipped in October-December 2014, making it the country's top seller for the first time.

However, some were already asking what Apple's next driver of growth in China would be and how the firm would fend off Xiaomi's longer-term challenge.

Xiaomi unveiled the Mi Note, its challenger to Apple's iPhone 6 Plus.