China overtakes U.S. in smartphone shipments, says research firm

The U.S. was still the largest market by revenue in the third quarter, said Strategy Analytics

China has passed the U.S. in the third quarter to become the world's largest smartphone market by shipments, but may find it tough to hold the position in the next two quarters, according to a research firm.

China's smartphone shipments reached 23.9 million units by the end of the third quarter, according to Strategy Analytics. This put the country just ahead of the U.S. where 23.3 million smartphones were shipped in the quarter.

Strategy Analytics cautioned that the U.S. could possibly regain the lead as the top smartphone market during the fourth quarter, when holiday sales are expected to pick up. "In the coming one or two quarters, it's going to be a seesaw game," Strategy Analytics director Thomas Kang said Thursday. "But going into next year, China will outstrip the U.S. market continuously. China is going to be larger every quarter."

The U.S. however, still remains the top smartphone market in terms of total revenue generated, driven by sales of high-end devices like Apple's iPhone. China will need three or four years before it can surpass the U.S. by revenue, Kang said.

Two other research firms report that the U.S. is still the top smartphone market by volume, although China is not far behind. Gartner, which tracks smartphone volume by devices sold rather than shipments, said that U.S. smartphone sales reached 22.2 million units in the third quarter, ahead of China's 21.7 million units.

Canalys said last month that the U.S shipped over 200,000 more smartphones than China at the end of the third quarter. Their definitions of smartphones or the vendors they include may be different, said Strategy Analytics.

Strategy Analytics credited the growth in China to better availability of smartphones in the country's retail channels, and subsidies on high-end devices like the Apple iPhone offered by China's mobile operators. More low-cost Android smartphones from domestic brands such as ZTE are also entering the Chinese market.

Nokia, which has seen its smartphone sales dramatically drop this past year, still holds the lead in China as the top smartphone vendor, with a 28 percent market share, according to Strategy Analytics.

"Historically, Nokia has been a very good brand in China," Kang said. The company has a strong presence in China's retail channels, and also offers a Chinese language texting software used on its phone, that has appealed to customers in the country, he said.

Nokia has however seen its smartphone market share in the country plummet from the 70 percent it had in 2010, according to Kang. The company's sales have been hit by competition from middle-end Android phones from domestic brands, and by China's mobile operators promoting the devices of rival smartphone makers.

Apple, a company that has seen its iPhone sales soar in China, has an estimated 12 percent share in the country's market, Kang said. "It's share has been doubling every year," he added.

In the third quarter, HTC had a 24 percent market share in the U.S., while Apple had a 20.6 percent share.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags ApplesamsungGartnerconsumer electronicshtcStrategy AnalyticssmartphonesNokiaCanalys

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Michael Kan

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Crucial Ballistix Elite 32GB Kit (4 x 8GB) DDR4-3000 UDIMM

Learn more >

Gadgets & Things

Lexar® Professional 1000x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Plox Star Wars Death Star Levitating Bluetooth Speaker

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles


GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy


First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni


For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell


The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi


The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott


My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?