Apple's iPhone falls behind on the mainland

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 August, 2012, 4:23am

With its two mainland carrier partners pushing many low-cost models, Apple finds the iPhone lagging behind arch-rival Samsung Electronics and a clutch of Chinese brands led by Lenovo in the country's fast-growing smartphone market.

Apple was ranked seventh among the top-selling smartphone brands on the mainland in the first six months of this year as cost-conscious consumers flocked to buy lower-priced models rather than the iPhone, according to market research firm IHS iSuppli.

China Unicom and China Telecom, the two mobile-operator partners of Apple, tapped low-priced smartphone suppliers to bolster their respective handset portfolios.

Unicom president Lu Yimin said on Thursday the carrier was focused on marketing the iPhone but described many new 3G subscribers as "low-end users" who wanted cheap smartphones.

Sino Market Research found 67.9 per cent of first-half smartphone sales to subscribers on Unicom's 3G network were on models that cost 2,000 yuan (HK$2,440) or less. Apple's iPhone is in the premium handset segment priced at 4,000 yuan or more, which made up 19.2 per cent of first-half smartphone sales of the country's second-biggest wireless network operator.

China Telecom, which introduced the iPhone on its 3G network in March, credited the Apple product for attracting high-end users. But the mainland's smallest mobile network operator said it offered 240 different smartphone models to effectively reach more consumers.

Of the 69.1 million smartphones sold on the mainland in the first half, IHS estimated Samsung shipped 14.4 million units to seize a market-leading 20.8 per cent share. Apple shipped 5.2 million units for a 7.5 per cent share. Lenovo, the world's second-biggest supplier of personal computers, grabbed an 11 per cent share to follow Samsung.

Yulong Computer Telecommunication Scientific (Shenzhen), maker of the Coolpad-brand smartphone, took the No 3 spot with a share of 10.4 per cent share. Huawei Technologies, the world's largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer, had a 9.8 per cent share to take fourth place ahead of struggling Finnish phone maker Nokia, which had a 9.1 per cent share.

Sixth-ranked ZTE had an 8.4 per cent share.

Although the firm had no low-cost iPhone strategy, "Apple will need to find a way to access a larger portion of the Chinese smartphone market", said Francis Sideco, a senior principal analyst at IHS.

Smartphone sales on the mainland this year are expected to reach 160 million units.