Apple ups its odds of gaining on Samsung in China

The company could gain ground against its archrival in the largest smartphone market in the world.

Apple

Apple has bigger designs on the biggest smartphone market in the world.

New iPhones could help Apple catch up with Samsung in China -- Samsung is now the single largest smartphone player in that market -- if two likely scenarios happen.

First, Apple announces a lower-cost iPhone, rumored to be the 5C. That would provide a better match for China's price-sensitive consumers.

Second, Apple cuts a deal with China Mobile, the biggest carrier in the largest smartphone market in the world.

Apple's growth in China has been stunted, in part, because it hasn't been able to strike a deal with China Mobile and its 740 million subscribers. (Apple lost market share in China last quarter.) Talks continue -- Apple CEO Tim Cook met with China Mobile Chairman Xi Guohua in July -- but nothing definitive has been announced.

Apple, however, could be in a better position this time to move forward with China Mobile. Reports out of Asia speculate that Apple's new phones will better support China Mobile's 3G/4G network standards .

UBS forecasts that Apple could sell 17 million iPhones through China Mobile next year, with the bulk of those expected to be the 5C. That's about 10 percent of UBS' projected total iPhone sales, according to the Financial Times.

And things may be looking up with Apple's current partners in China, China Telecom and China Unicom. A recent report from Ifanr -- citing an unnamed source -- claimed that the iPhone 5S and 5C have been certified by China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and that China Telecom and China Unicom will release the two models in September, earlier than a previously reported November release date.

That's all just rumor, of course, but it may indicate that Apple will be faster at releasing new iPhones in China this time around.

While all of the above is potentially good news for Apple, Samsung shipped 72.4 million smartphones worldwide in the second quarter compared with Apple's 31.2 million global shipments, according to IDC.

A nontrivial chunk of those Samsung shipments happened in China, where the company is estimated to hold 19 percent of the market, about 10 percentage points more than Apple.

Apple's revenue in the most recent reported quarter fell 14 percent year over year in Greater China, which includes Taiwan and Hong Kong.

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

 

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