Huawei Technologies, the mainland's largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer, sold more smart phones than larger rival Apple on the mainland last quarter, according to market research firm Gartner.
The Shenzhen-based company shipped 3.471 million smart phones in the quarter to December to seize a 12.6 per cent share and become the No3 supplier on the mainland behind perennial market leader Nokia and second-ranked Samsung Electronics.
Apple shipped 2.079 million units to claim a 7.5 per cent share and fourth place in the domestic smart-phone market, ahead of Taiwan-based HTC. Apple had a 10.4 per cent market share in the quarter to September.
Gartner analyst Lu Chun-kuan said Apple's unit shipments declined because 'there was a delay in the release of the iPhone 4S in the fourth quarter'.
Hong Kong and Taiwan both received shipments of the phone in December, before the mainland. Apple ranks China - comprising the mainland, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan - as its biggest market after the United States.
While mainland consumers waited for the iPhone 4S, big local brands such as Huawei and ZTE saw an opportunity to sell their entry-level smart phones priced at about 1,000 yuan (HK$1,220). These models run the Google-developed Android operating system.
'We remain positive on Apple's shipment growth in China because of potential deals with China Mobile and China Telecom,' Lu said.
Apple is expected to sign up those two telecommunications network operators as its next partners for the iPhone on the mainland after China Unicom.
All three nationwide carriers have focused their efforts on subsidising 3G smart phones to attract high-end users.
Global sales of iPhones last quarter soared 47.3 per cent to a record 149 million from 101.15 million in 2010.
Total smart phone sales last year reached 472 million units and accounted for 31 per cent of all mobile devices sales, up 58 per cent from 2010. Gartner, however, said Huawei and ZTE would remain strong competitors to Apple and other leading global brands on the mainland because of the range of models and pricing of their Android-based smart phones. It said Huawei had made significant progress in pushing its own brand of smart phones, compared with domestic rival ZTE, which is the second-largest telecommunications equipment maker on the mainland. 'It is trying to build more iconic products,' Gartner said.
At the International Consumer Electronics Show, the industry's biggest trade show, held in Las Vegas last month, Huawei unveiled the market's slimmest smart phones - the Ascend P1 S and Ascend P1. The Ascend P1 S, whose body measures 6.68mm, will be available by the middle of this year in Hong Kong.
Gartner said Huawei is now 'aggressively moving to open channel' distribution for its smart phones in Britain and other markets in Europe.
The amount that Huawei spent on R&D in 2010
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