China sales of smart mobile devices surge in first quarter

Spending on 'smart connected devices' hits a record high in first quarter, with smartphone sales driven by low-cost, domestic-brand handsets

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 June, 2013, 4:35am

Total spending on smartphones, media tablets and laptop personal computers on the mainland reached 166.7 billion yuan (HK$211.2 billion) in the first three months of the year on a record purchase of 90.3 million units.

That marked a 60 per cent increase from 103.9 billion yuan a year earlier and more than double the 44.7 million units sold during that same period last year, according to market research company GfK.

The latest retail sales audit of GfK shows that strong demand for smartphones and tablets helped grow spending on this product category known as "smart connected devices" across the mainland.

Expenditure on smartphones climbed 87 per cent from a year earlier to 134.8 billion yuan in the first quarter as unit sales rose 123 per cent to 81.1 million.

Technology research firm IDC's Smart Connected Devices Tracker programme for the first quarter showed that the top five smartphone suppliers during the period were Samsung Electronics, Lenovo, Huawei Technologies, Coolpad-maker Yulong Computer Telecommunication Scientific (Shenzhen) and Apple. Yulong is a wholly owned subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed China Wireless Technologies.

Antonio Wang, the associate director of computing systems research at IDC China, said Samsung had "switched its marketing focus from competing with Apple in the high-end market … to striving to gain share against domestic brands in the market for products under US$200".

GfK said smartphone purchases on the mainland were largely driven by demand for low-cost, domestic-brand handsets priced below 600 yuan.

Spending on tablets grew 42 per cent to 8.8 billion yuan in the first quarter from a year ago as sales advanced 61 per cent to 3.7 million units.

According to IDC, the mainland's top five tablet suppliers the period were Apple, Samsung, Lenovo, Huawei and Taiwanese-based Teclast.

GfK forecast that more local brands would build and sell "phablets", the hybrid form of tablet used as a large-display smartphone, popularised by Samsung.

The popularity of smartphones and tablets, however, resulted in slower demand for laptops on the mainland.

Laptop spending fell 9.8 per cent in the same period to 23.1 billion yuan from 25.6 billion yuan a year earlier. Unit sales were also down, by 9.8 per cent to 5.5 million from 6.1 million.

Despite that decline, GfK said mainland demand for ultra-thin laptops was robust, accounting for about 20 per cent of total laptop sales in the first quarter.

IDC said the mainland's top five laptop suppliers in the past quarter were Lenovo, Asus, Dell, Acer and Hewlett-Packard.