China to take smartphone lead

16 March 2012

BEIJING: The Chinese smartphone market is set to overtake its US counterpart this year to become the largest outlet for these devices worldwide, according to a forecast.

IDC, the research firm, reported that smartphone shipments reached 491m units in 2011, compared with 305m in 2010. Totals on the measure are also expected to top 982m handsets by the close of 2015.
The company suggested that the US accounted for 21.3% of smartphone shipments in 2011, versus the 18.2% attributable to China, with these two nations in first and second place respectively.

However, the Asian nation overtook the US on this metric in the final two quarters of last year, and Chinese smartphone sales are also expected to rise by more than 50% this year.

As a result, China will hold 20.7% of the worldwide smartphone market by the end of 2012 just ahead of the 20.6% logged by the US, a shift that is not going to be reversed.

"There will be no turning back this leadership changeover," Wong Teck Zhung, a senior market analyst at IDC Asia Pacific, said.

More specifically, IDC's analysis suggested devices powered by Google's Android operating system and priced at less than $200 were a "hot segment" in China last year, a trend likely to continue into 2012.

"Emerging domestic vendors will be another important engine of smartphone growth as giants Huawei, ZTE, and Lenovo continue to ramp up with big carrier orders due to their willingness to produce customized handsets," Teck Zhung added.

"International players such as Samsung and Nokia are also expected to drive volume at the low end with cheaper smartphones."

Looking further ahead, IDC anticipated that China would be responsible for a 20.2% share of smartphone shipments by 2016, with the US having seen a further decline in its position, on 15.3%.

The main reason for this will be the rise of other major emerging markets. As an example, India will see its proportion of global share rise from 2.2% in 2011 to 9.3% in 2016.

Similarly, Brazil's modest total of 1.8% from last year is anticipated to hit 4.7% by the end of the forecast period.

Data sourced from IDC; additional content by Warc staff