SHANGHAI: Despite Apple's record $800bn valuation, the iPhone giant continues to struggle in China, as new figures show Google's Android OS enjoying 87% market share in the first quarter of 2017, as more phone manufacturers compete.

The research, which is based on a Kantar Worldpanel Comtech global consumer panel, tracked phone purchases, bills/airtime, source of purchase, and usage across the world.

Q1 of 2017 produced the lowest Apple iOS share in China since Q2 2014 with 12.4 percent of smartphone sales. However, "Android continued to make year-on-year gains with 87.2 percent of smartphone sales," said Lauren Guenveur, Consumer Insight Director for Kantar Worldpanel ComTech.

"For iOS, this represents a 9.1 percentage point drop from the first quarter of 2016. At the same time, iPhone 7 remained the best-selling device in urban China with 3.8 percent of a market that has become increasingly fragmented," she said.

Android, an open-source mobile and tablet operating system, benefits from its applicability across devices, with particularly strong use by Chinese phone manufacturers.

Of those Android sales in China, local manufacturer Huawei dominates the urban market with 36% share. The second largest brand, Oppo, accounted for 13% of sales.

"Samsung fell to sixth place behind local Chinese vendors Xiaomi, Meizu, and Vivo, at just five percent of sales," reported Tamsin Timpson, Strategic Insight Director at Kantar Worldpanel ComTech Asia.

Google's OS also continues to make gains in the five largest European economies (Great Britain, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain), accounting for 76.3% of smartphone sales, roughly flat year-on-year. Meanwhile, Apple's iOS took 20.7% of sales, a 1.9% increase.

On the back of Android's popularity, Chinese manufacturers have also experienced growth in the EU, now accounting for 22% of smartphone sales.

"While Chinese vendors are enjoying growth in places like EU5, Latin America, and India, the same cannot be said in the US, which remains dominated by Apple (39%), Samsung (30%), and LG (12%)," Guenveur said.

"The first quarter 2017 decline in Samsung smartphone sales was likely due to buyers anticipating the April 21 release of the new Samsung Galaxy S8."

Data sourced from Kantar Worldpanel