Technology

China smartphone saturation: Market contracts for the first time in six years

Andrew Sadauskas /

Smartphone shipments into China contracted by 4.4% in the first quarter of 2015 compared to a year earlier, suggesting the world’s largest smartphone market could be approaching saturation, according to IDC figures.

In May 2012, China overtook the US as the world’s largest market for smartphones. The market is dominated by three state-owned carriers, with China Mobile boasting 715 million mobile phone users (including both featurephones and smartphones), China Unicom claiming 242.9 million and China Telecom with a relatively paltry 162.8 million.

In the most recent quarter, a total of 98.8 million smartphones were shipped, down from 103.2 million a year earlier. Figures published in August last year show 69.5% of Chinese people own smartphones, compared to 66.2% of Australians.

Apple is the largest vendor in China by volume, shipping 14.5 million units for 14.7% market share, narrowly beating out emerging local consumer electronics giants Xiaomi with 13.5 million units and Huawei with 11.2 million. Samsung (9.6 million) and Lenovo/Motorola (8.2 million) round out the top five vendors.

Most of the vendors aside from Apple ship devices with local variations of Android, such as Xiaomi’s MIUI. However, this is of little benefit to Google as it does not offer most of its services, including the Google Play store, in China.

The figures diverge significantly from Kantar Worldpanel’s market share figures for the three months ending March 2015, which lists Apple’s market share as being significantly higher at 26.1%.

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Andrew Sadauskas

Andrew Sadauskas is a former journalist at SmartCompany and a former editor of TechCompany.

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