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China now largest smartphone market, Nokia still in front

updated 08:05 am EST, Wed November 23, 2011

Strategy Analytics sees China pass US in Q3

China has overtaken the US to become the world's most important smartphone market, Strategy Analytics said Wednesday. Where US shipments actually shrank 7.5 percent from spring to summer to fall back to 23.3 million smartphones, the Chinese market grew 57.5 percent just the one season to hit 23.9 million. Nokia, despite its rapid decline, was still the leader in China with 6.8 million Symbian phones, or 28.5 percent, beating Samsung's 4.2 million and 17.6 million.

The shift was credited mostly to a run of low-end Android phones from China-native companies like Huawei and ZTE, as well as Apple, which has been taking advantage of heavy discounting on iPhones even before the price-cut iPhone 3GS arrived. Samsung sells both low- and high-end Android mixes and has covered both ends of the market.

Some of the overall shift came from Apple's own product strategy. Customers waiting for the iPhone 4S dragged Apple's share down worldwide but also gave HTC at least a brief spot in the lead for the US, where it moved 5.6 million smartphones to push Apple down to 4.8 million. The iPhone 4S launch and the addition of Sprint are expected both to catch up on a broader level as well as to drag HTC down, since Sprint is often considered its signature carrier in the US.

Whatever the short-term consequences, researchers noted that China was now important enough that any smartphone maker had to pay attention to the country to stay relevant. Apple's decision to keep the iPhone 3GS one more year and lower its off-contract price has been widely attributed to trying to range deeper into the Chinese market, where lower average incomes and a leaning towards prepaid phones change the dynamics versus the US. Android has always had a deliberately low minimum requirement.

by MacNN Staff



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