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China now world's biggest market for smartphones

China has overtaken the US as the world's biggest buyer of smartphones says Canalys

China now world's biggest market for smartphones
China accounted for 22% of the global smartphone market in Q1 2012.

China has overtaken the US as the leading market for smart phones, according to figures from Canalys.

The analyst company said that China accounted for 22% of the worldwide market for smartphones in Q1, compared to 16% for the US. Shipments in China were double what they were last year.

The worldwide market as whole grew by 45% year-on-year, to 146 million units, but growth in the US was just 55, compared to 81% in the Asia-Pacific.

Samsung was the leader in the Chinese market, with 22% share, followed by Apple on 19%, with Nokia third. There was strong competition from Android-based handsets from ZTE, Huawei and Lenovo.

"As well as seasonal factors, such as the Lunar New Year, the iPhone's arrival at two of the country's carriers helped boost volume and raised Apple's share to 19%," said Nicole Peng, Canalys research director for China. "Samsung expanded its smart phone business substantially through its existing mobile phone channels. Its wide range of localized devices helped increase uptake across all carriers, and it combined this with significant marketing spend to drive consumer awareness."

The market was also boosted by strong local third-party app stores, which are much more prevalent in China that other markets.

"Third-party app stores are ubiquitous on Android devices in China, to a degree not seen anywhere else in the world. The absence of the Google Play store as standard is a factor, but vendors targeting this market must understand the intensity of competition between these stores and how it has promoted innovation," said Tim Shepherd, senior analyst at Canalys. "If the big international app store providers want to attract Chinese consumers, they must quickly reach the point where they can offer a large selection of good-quality, locally-relevant apps and content. This can be achieved organically, through partnerships, or by acquiring a major third-party Chinese app store. But they must also offer suitably localized and relevant featured app listings and ensure the content does not stagnate."

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