Mobile devices trump PCs in China
The mainland's online population swelled to 538 million by the end of last month and, for the first time, more users were accessing the internet through mobile phones and other devices than via personal computers.
Already the world's largest internet market, the mainland now boasts an online user base that is equal to the combined populations of the United States and Brazil, according to data released yesterday by the China Internet Network Information Centre (CNNIC).
The latest figure marked an 11 per cent increase from 485 million online users at the end of June last year. It also put the nation's internet penetration rate at 39.9 per cent, which means about four out of every 10 Chinese are online.
The potential for rapid development appears to justify the rush by many companies to offer a broad range of hardware, software and services to the internet market.
CNNIC, which is under the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, found that the number of people accessing the internet through wireless devices, such as smartphones and media tablets, had climbed to 388 million at the end of June.
According to market research firm Strategy Analytics, significant smartphone growth on the mainland has been driven by greater availability of phones from retailers, aggressive subsidies provided by mobile network operators to high-end models like Apple's iPhone, and emerging Chinese brands selling low-cost models that run on Google's Android operating system.
The mainland surpassed the US as the world's biggest smartphone market last year, when total domestic sales hit 84 million units.
Internet market analyst firm iResearch has forecast that smartphone sales on the mainland will reach 113 million units this year.
Alberto Moel, senior analyst at Bernstein Research, said Nokia, Samsung Electronics and Apple were the mainland's top three smartphone brands last year, with a combined market share of about 60 per cent.
Technology research firm IDC has forecast that the mainland's total volume of media tablet sales would grow nearly 30 per cent to 8 million this year, up from 6.2 million last year.
The market trend has not been lost on Chinese technology giant Lenovo, the mainland's top personal computer supplier and world's second biggest.
It has bet big on developing its own lines of smartphones, media tablets and internet-linked 'smart' televisions.
'With the emergence of multiple devices such as smartphones, tablets and smart TV, our industry is entering the PC+ era,' Lenovo chairman and chief executive Yang Yuanqing said in May.
CNNIC data also show 210 million internet users shopped online at the end of June, with 44.4 million people using their smartphones to browse and pay for merchandise found online.
That audience is served largely by Alibaba Group's TMall and Taobao Marketplace, China's leading online-shopping websites, which forecast one trillion yuan in sales this year.
The number of people accessing the internet using wireless devices. It exceeded PC users for the first time