Why it matters: Relations between the US and China might remain frosty, but Apple still experienced a significant jump in smartphone shipments within the region last month. Thanks partly to the popularity of the iPhone 11, sales of the company's handsets grew 18.7 percent in China year-over-year.

Bloomberg reports that Apple shipped around 3.18 million units in the Asian nation in December. Shipments had been accelerating in previous months, spurred by the release of the iPhone 11 in September. The figures are based on data from the China Academy of Information and Communication Technology (CAICT) and from Android device shipments.

The iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro/Pro Max have been praised by critics and consumers alike for their long battery life and excellent cameras. The cheaper iPhone 11 has proved particularly popular and was a winner in our 'Best of Smartphones' feature. We also chose the iPhone Pro Max as one of the best premium phones.

The best-selling smartphones of Q3, based on worldwide market share

The increase comes despite China's overall smartphone shipments falling to 30 million units---a 13.7 percent drop compared to the same period a year earlier. Apple has also had to deal with the Huawei situation, which has seen many Chinese vendors promoting the local company's products over Apple's.

Some elements that have improved Apple's sales in China include a tax cut that allowed it to drop the price of its handsets, and the trade war with the US does appear to be thawing slightly.

While Apple is lagging behind rivals such as Samsung when it comes to 5G phones, Bloomberg writes that the recent boost in sales means the company is expected to perform well as the Chinese New Year (January 25) approaches.

In other Apple news, we recently heard that the firm could release up to six new handsets this year, including two new models that replace the iPhone SE. Rather than being called the iPhone SE 2, they may be named the iPhone 9.