The citizens Chinese people have fallen in love with the iPhone. It didn’t seem like that at first, with the first two generations of the product selling rather poorly – it was just too expensive when compared with Hong Kong prices. That didn’t last long, though, with Chinese buyers rapidly becoming big fans of Apple, whether the iPhone or the iPad. China is developing at such a rate that it’s now the biggest market for smartphones in the world – and the iPhone’s cost has made it into an object everyone wants to own. So much so that there are people who would sell an organ to pay for one.
Even so, the People’s Republic of China turns out also to be the home of the people’s phone, and that means Android. According to research carried out by Analysis International, Android’s market share in Chine almost doubled between 2010 and 2011, from 33.6% to 65%. Compare that with the numbers for iOS, which has also seen a rise – but on a much smaller scale, lacking the attraction of the large amount of free calls from Android some providers can offer. Its share has gone from 4.1% to 5.7% in the same time.
That leaves plenty of room for Apple to grow, and the company is targeting China, with its massive population, as one of its key markets for growth. The country already has more cellphone subscribers than anywhere else in the world, with the figure rapidly closing in on the one billion mark at 988 million. Plenty of these people have migrated to smartphones, but despite the iPhone’s success as a status symbol, Android still dominates the marketplace.
When it comes to the Asian market, Apple both benefits and suffers from the iPhone’s high price. Chinese sales of the iPhone are strongest in Beijing, the national capital, and Shanghai, the world’s biggest city. These and other rich cities are where Apple does best, since the appeal of free calls from Android is less to users who are less concerned with costs.
Android follows a different path, with cheap handsets largely produced by Chinese manufacturers like ZTE Corp. and Huawei. Most of Android’s gains have been by taking market share from Nokia. The Finnish manufacturer is only slowly transitioning to Windows Phone, and its smartphone business still relies to some extent on the outdated Symbian operating system. Nokia used to be in pole position in the Chinese market, but its market share has fallen by more than half to just 18.7% for the year.
When measured in terms of unit sales, 2011 saw Android as the leading operating system in the world for smartphones. Apple’s profits per handset are far higher, however. For that reason, Apple just pipped Samsung, the pack leader for Android phones, in terms of worldwide sales, with healthy American demand driving its success.