The iPhone is currently available on two of the top 3 carriers in China. The lone holdout is China Mobile which just so happens to be the biggest carrier in the world, featuring over 655 million subscribers as of January 2012. To put that into perspective, that’s about six times as many subscribers as Verizon, the largest carrier in the US.
That said, Apple has repeatedly stressed the potential for iPhone growth in China, with Tim Cook stating not too long ago that the company had barely scratched the surface of what promises to be a tremendous market for new iPhone users.
Coloring the growing importance of China to Apple, and indeed to all handset manufacturers, new data from canalys reveals that China recently overtook the US as the largest smartphone market in the world. Specifically, smartphone shipments in Q1 2012 in China represented 22% of global shipments while US shipments represnted 16% of the global market. What’s more, the report adds, “Of the top 10 countries for smart phones, half are now in the Asia Pacific region.” Further, smartphone growth in China year over year came in at 81% as compared to just 5% in the US.
This tidbit is also interesting:
Two-thirds of the smart phones shipping in China in the first quarter were based on Android, and more than a quarter of all Android smart phone shipments globally are in China. A multitude of international and local vendors are using Android to address the Chinese market, offering an array of devices at a wide range of price points. Canalys notes that the dynamics of app stores are very different on these devices compared to other parts of the globe.
Those stats may soon be changing, however.
It’s looking more and more likely that the iPhone 5 will be the first iPhone to run on China Mobile which may allow Apple to deliver even more impressive iPhone sales results.