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Phones

iPhone 6 earns Apple highest market share in urban China

One in every four smartphones now sold in urban China is an iPhone, according to research firm Kantar Worldpanel ComTech.

The new iPhone 6 line helped Apple win a lot more customers in China. CNET

Apple has captured a quarter of all sales in the world's largest smartphone market.

Over the three months ending in January, Apple scored a market share of 25.4 percent in urban China, up from 17.4 percent for the same period in 2014, Kantar Worldpanel ComTech said Wednesday. The new number gave Apple its largest ever market share in the urban areas of China, according to the research firm.

China presents a lucrative opportunity for Apple and other mobile phone vendors as it became the world's biggest smartphone market in 2011 and now holds the ticket to almost 520 million smartphone users. Apple had been working to gain more market share in China by reaching deals with major carriers. An agreement with the world's largest carrier, China Mobile, was a challenge but provided access to more than 800 million subscribers. Still, Apple continues to face competition from local smartphone makers -- such as Xiaomi -- which hold the upper hand, at least for now.

"In urban China, Apple's iPhone 6 was the best selling phone in the three months ending in January with a share of 9.5 percent," Tamsin Timpson, strategic insight director at Kantar Worldpanel ComTech Asia, said in a statement. "Xiaomi had several smartphones in the top 10 chart with the RedMi Note its best selling device and the second most popular product behind the iPhone 6 [with] a share of 8.9 percent. Over the past three months, Apple continued to close the gap with Xiaomi, which remained the leading brand in urban China but with only a 2.2 percentage point advantage."

As a mobile platform, Android is still tops in China with a 72.8 percent share, though that was down from 80.8 percent in the same period a year earlier. Google's mobile OS also saw declines in the US and Europe at the same time that iOS enjoyed some gains.

In the United States during the three months that ended in January, Apple's share of smartphone sales grew to 42.8 percent from 39.2 percent year over year, while Android's dipped to 51.9 percent from 55 percent. But Android actually outscored iOS in the US after being overtaken by Apple during the last three months of 2014, thanks to strong sales from key vendors.

"Samsung was able to take its share to levels similar to January 2014 and LG also grew its share of sales year on year," said Carolina Milanesi, chief of research at Kantar.

Across the so-called European Union Five (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom), Apple's slice of sales grew to 21.9 percent from 18.7 percent, while Android's piece inched down to 67.2 percent from 69.4 percent. The iPhone 6 was the top-selling phone in Britain. France, Germany, Italy and Japan.

"Great Britain was once again the market that recorded the sharpest drop in Android share," Dominic Sunnebo, business unit director at Kantar Worldpanel ComTech Europe, said. "However, a more stable performance by Samsung was able to hold share quarter-on-quarter and an improved performance by Motorola and HTC helped overall Android sales."

Despite the gains seen by Apple thanks to its iPhone 6 lineup, Android continues to dominate in every country tracked by Kantar except for Japan.