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Apple takes smartphone crown in China

The iPhone snagged a 27.6 percent market share in urban China for the three months ending in February, pushing Apple ahead of local vendor Xiaomi, according to a market researcher.

The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus vaulted Apple to the top spot in China. CNET

Apple has stolen the No. 1 spot in smartphone sales in urban China from local rival Xiaomi, according to market researcher Kantar Worldpanel ComTech.

For the three months that ended in February, Apple's iPhone 6 was the top selling phone in urban China with a market share of 10.2 percent, up from 9.5 percent for the prior three months. The iPhone 6 Plus was the third best-selling phone just behind Xiaomi's Android-based RedMi Note in second place. With the two new iPhones as well as older models selling robustly in China, Apple jumped to the top spot with 27.6 percent market share overall, Kantar said Wednesday.

As the world's largest smartphone market with almost 520 million users, China is prime territory for Apple and other mobile phone vendors. Apple aggressively pursued deals with China's three major mobile carriers, including top carrier China Mobile, to bring the iPhone to the country. China-based smartphone rivals, such as Xiaomi, have typically held the upper hand by offering high-quality phones at low prices. So Apple's rise in China is a clear sign of the appeal of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

"There has been a strong appetite for Apple's products in urban China seen since the launch of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, and this has continued into Chinese New Year," Kantar Worldpanel research chief Carolina Milanesi said in a statement. "China Mobile's subscribers accounted for 59 percent of the 27.6 percent volume share recorded by iOS in the latest period."

Apple also made some headway against Android in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK. Over the three months ended in February, Apple's smartphone market share climbed by 2.9 points in those five countries, while Android's share fell by the same amount. Still, Google's Android OS by far remained the dominant platform with a 67.6 percent share compared with Apple's 20.9 percent.

"In Great Britain, as Samsung prepared the channel for the arrival of the new flagships Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, sales of the Galaxy S5 grew slightly over the previous period and captured 8.7 percent of smartphone sales, keeping this model as the second best selling smartphone after the iPhone 6," according to Kantar Worldpanel ComTech Europe business unit director Dominic Sunnebo.

Consumers who chose the iPhone 6 cited such factors as the phone's reliability and durability and its attractive design. Those who opted for the Galaxy S5 pointed to its reliability and durability as well but also said it was a good deal based on the contract.

In the United States, Apple's smartphone share inched down to 38.8 percent for the three months that ended in February, compared with 39.3 percent during the same period last year. But the iPhone 6 was still the best selling iPhone across the US. Buyers of the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 mentioned screen size as the No. 1 factor, followed closely by 4G LTE support. Among those who went for the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus, 70 percent cited screen size as the top reason.