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China forecast to rank as No. 1 smartphone market in 2012

2012/03/18 16:26:36

Taipei, March 18 (CNA) China will become the world's largest smartphone market in 2012, driven by sales of low-priced models, while India and Brazil will play more meaningful roles by 2016, according to a U.S.-based research firm.

After surpassing smartphone shipments in the United States for two consecutive quarters in the second half of 2011, China will carry that momentum into 2012 and rank as the top smartphone market for the whole of this year, International Data Corp. (IDC) predicted in a recent report.

China is forecast to order 20.7 percent of worldwide smartphone shipments this year, slightly higher than the 20.6 percent for the U.S., according to the report.

Meanwhile, India will account for only a 2.9 percent share of the worldwide smartphone market and rank as the seventh-largest country-level smartphone market in 2012, with Brazil taking 2.3 percent and ranked as 10th in smartphone purchases, according to the report.

IDC further said that Android smartphones priced below US$200 were a hot segment in 2011, and these low-cost models are expected to remain a key driver for smartphone growth, with prices becoming even more affordable on falling chipset prices and increased competition.

"Emerging domestic vendors will be another important engine of smartphone growth as giants Huawei, ZTE, and Lenovo continue to ramp up with big carrier orders due to their willingness to produce customized handsets," said IDC senior market analyst Wong Teck Zhung.

"International players such as Samsung and Nokia are also expected to drive volume at the low end with cheaper smartphones," Teck Zhung added.

In addition to local handset brands in China, Taiwan' HTC Corp. has tapped into the booming market during the past two years.

Because of the uniqueness of the retail business model in China, HTC has said its products had been distributed at 2,000 locations by the end of 2011, up from 650 locations in the second quarter of last year.

HTC also has plans to sell its new "One" series streamline phones in China this year through the country's three major telecom operators, said Herbert Ho, analyst at the Taipei-based Topology Research Institute (TRI).

Ho said the three One smartphone models unveiled Feb. 27 at the Barcelona Mobile World Congress, including the 4G LTE (long-term evolution)-enabled One XL, will start from 1,500 Chinese yuan (US$237) after incentives.

Meanwhile, mature markets such as Japan, the United Kingdom and the U.S. will experience continued growth in smartphone adoption, but volumes will not keep up with those destined for emerging markets like India and Brazil, IDC said.

For example, smartphone growth in India last year has been largely driven by top-tier brands like Samsung and HTC, as international vendors look to continue investing in local manufacturing in the coming years as the Indian market becomes a top priority, the research firm noted.

By the end of 2016, IDC said, China and the U.S. will remain as the two largest markets with 20.2 percent and 15.3 percent shares, respectively, followed by 9.3 percent for India, 4.7 percent for Brazil and 3.7 percent in the UK.

(By Jeffrey Wu)
ENDITEM/Robert