9 out of 10 Handsets Sold in China are Smartphones

Smartphone momentum continues in the world’s largest mobile market, China. According to the latest Monthly Market Pulse Report from Counterpoint Research, smartphone sales in China reached an all-time monthly high of 30 million units in August 2013. The smartphone penetration of the total handsets sold also reached a record high of 91% topping many developed markets such as USA which reached 87% during the same month. China is now almost three times larger than the US market after it surpassed USA last year to become the largest smartphone market globally.

Most of the contribution came from the domestic players such as Lenovo, Huawei, Coolpad, Xiaomi and ZTE boosted by their broader smartphone portfolio and expanding distribution reach. These vendors realized healthy sell-through after a channel inventory built-up in July 2013.

As a result, Android OEMs captured a combined record 96% share during the same period. While Samsung saw its share dipped to 15%, Lenovo maintained the number two spot with 11% smartphone share. Meanwhile, Nokia (& Windows Phone) surpassed Apple (& iOS) thanks to better movement for lower-priced models such as Lumia 520. But we believe this is a temporary setback as Apple will likely regain significant share from competition with the new iPhone 5s & 5c launches starting September 2013.

The premium smartphones’ growth significantly slowed in China in August 2013 following a small spike in May & June with Galaxy S4 launch. The key reasons being a dip in iPhone sales in anticipation of newer iPhones plus a shift in operator subsidies towards mid- to lower priced models.

The real volume growth driver in August 2013 was the sub-US$200 wholesale price band smartphones. Domestic vendors captured more than three-fourths of this fast growing segment thanks to smartphone retail prices reaching feature phone levels. Furthermore, the generous subsidies from Chinese operators significantly lowered the barriers for consumers to purchase these smartphones. Feature Phones are thus quickly moving towards oblivion and are disappearing from majority of OEMs’ product portfolios and & Operators’ shelves.

Figure 1: China Smartphone Sales* & Sales Penetration % Trends

China Smartphone Sales & Sales Penetration % Trends

Figure 2: China Market Smartphone Sales Share August 2013

China Monthly Market Pulse OEM Smartphone Share August 2013

Source: Monthly Market Pulse August 2013

* The numbers in this press release only account for the official and legitimate channels.