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China might not be the land of the smartphone for much longer

After years of being the emerging smartphone market, China has seen its first major fall in the number of device shipments entering the country.

According to research company IDC, smartphone shipments into China fell by 8 per cent from the last quarter of last year to the first quarter of this year, as the previously fertile Chinese market went from being jam-packed with potential buyers, who had never owned a smartphone before, to near saturation.

Data collected by another research company, Counterpoint, shows that smartphones now have a penetration rate of more than 90 per cent which, in simple terms, means that virtually everyone with a hankering for a smartphone already has one.

Kitty Fok, Managing Director of IDC, China, told the BBC: “China is often thought of as an emerging market but the reality is that the vast majority of phones sold in China today are smartphones, similar to other mature markets like the US, UK, Australia, and Japan,”

“Just like these markets, convincing existing users as well as feature phone users to upgrade to new smartphones will now be the key to further growth in the China market.”

The fact that China has gone from a buying market to an upgrade one is likely to alter the way the country consumes and produces mobile tech.

Start-ups like OnePlus have begun to emerge, which operate under a business model that aims to eliminate the huge surpluses of stock which current manufacturers are now labouring to move.

In addition to this, consumers who are looking to upgrade will have a much better idea of what they want in a device too (and what they don’t) and that demand is already beginning to shape how China’s premier smartphone makers develop their new devices, with recent offerings from both ZTE and Huawei boasting a more top-end feel, as the companies strive to hold a candle to Apple and Samsung, who both hold a firm grasp on the premium end of the market.


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