There are 668 million internet users in China, and almost all of them are using smartphones

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 July, 2015, 6:53pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 July, 2015, 7:17pm

While China's saturated smartphone market may be slowing down for manufacturers, it is changing the way people in the world's second largest economy get online for good.

According to a new report by the official China Internet Network Information Centre, the number of internet users in China rose to 668 million by the end of June, up 2.91 per cent, or 18.94 million, compared to the end of 2014.

The total internet penetration rate was 48.8 per cent across mainland China, CINIC said.

The proportion of those using smartphones to get online jumped to 88.9 per cent, compared to 85.8 per cent last year.

Conversely, the number of people using laptops or desktop PCs to access the internet fell to 42.5 per cent and 68.4 per cent respectively.

Tablets fell to 33.7 per cent, with the report predicting that this will drop further as large-screen smartphones, or "phablets", continue to proliferate in China.

As might be expected with a boom in smartphone usage, user figures for mobile online services have also increased. In the first half of 2015, the mobile payment sector grew by 26.9 per cent to 276 million, while mobile e-commerce hit 270 million users, an increase of 14.5 per cent on the start of the year.

China's smartphone market has become incredibly competitive in recent years, with the lower end becoming increasingly saturated as new manufacturers seek to emulate the success of cut-price phone maker Xiaomi, which grew to become mainland China's largest domestic smartphone brand in just five years.

This saturation has led many manufacturers to target the higher end of the market, competing with foreign brands Samsung and Apple.

On Wednesday, Huawei announced that it was expecting to make US$20 billion this year, largely on the back of sales of its high-end smartphone models.