IDC's Q1 2013 "China Mobile Phone Quarterly Tracker" gave first place to Samsung, which has 19 percent, twice the unit share of Apple. But Samsung also has a 47 percent share of smartphones being sold for less than $200, highlighting the fact that Samsung's unit sales aim at the low end of the market.
The report cited Antonio Wang, the Associate Director of Computing Systems Research Group for IDC China, as saying, "In China?s smartphone market, Samsung has switched its marketing focus from competing with Apple for high-end market to maintaining its high-end market share, and is starting to strive for market for products under USD 200, which has so far been dominated by domestic brands. However, Apple leverages the incentive policies for channels to inspire the shipments of iPhone 4, further expanding its user base."
A report by Canalys earlier gave Apple an 8 percent share of the Chinese market, counting four million fewer unit sales in the quarter. But it too moved Apple up a notch as the fifth place smartphone vendor in China in response to Apple's increasingly aggressive sales efforts, including financing over an installment plan.
China passed the United States as the country selling the most iOS and Android-based smartphones in February, according to Flurry Analytics.
Big phones in Asia
Addressing the plus-sized smartphone screen market, IDC noted that, "influenced by the operators? demands for customized product specifications (large screen over 5 inches, dual-core/quad-core) and the positive effect of Samsung?s GALAXY S and Note series on the growth of large-screen mobile phone market, large-screen mobile phones are gradually becoming acceptable to consumers."
IDC says its data "indicates that, as of Q1 2013, the market share of 5-inch above smartphones reached 7.5%." It predicts this figure will rise to 20 percent by the end of 2013.
The firm also notes that the smartphone market will increasingly shift toward sophisticated Internet services and away from a simple hardware specifications race.
"It is difficult for mobile phone vendors to differentiate by simply upgrading hardware for higher premium," the report stated. "Getting ready for mobile internet services, such as app store, voice input, mobile browser, mobile desktop and cloud service, has become an inevitable competition strategy for vendors to enhance stickiness and vie for mobile internet entrance in the future."
Rather than having much of a home court advantage, Chinese hardware makers "have encountered many bottlenecks in developing high-end products," IDC stated, citing patent limitations and the source of "core components controlled by large foreign vendors."