Android dominates China's smartphone market, and took almost 77 percent of sales in the first quarter of 2012, according to Beijing-based Analysys International, which specialises in the Chinese market.
Android's rapid rise has been at Nokia's expense, though minor players have also been squeezed (see graph below). A year ago, in the first quarter of 2011, Nokia's Symbian operating system was the market leader with 42.5 percent of the market against Android's 33.6 percent. Since then, Android has gained around 10 percentage points a quarter to reach 76.7 percent, while Symbian has slumped to 11.8 percent.
Apple's iPhone has also gained market share, but it is still behind Symbian, according to Analysys's Quarterly Survey of Chinese Mobile Terminal Market. Other analysts disagree.
Analysys says Android's appeal is due to "the existing eco-system with applications and Android's open source [attracting] new participants from industries." The resulting competition is driving down prices, which makes Android phones more attractive to Chinese consumers. However, manufacturers are adding their own features to Android, or forking Google's version, which is creating fragmentation.
Analysys doesn't explain what it counts as smartphone, nor does it explain how it gets its numbers. However, a quarterly report by analyst Charlie Wolf of Needham & Company has just put Android's share of China's smartphone market at 69.5 percent for this year's second quarter, followed by Apple (17.3 percent) and Nokia (11.2 percent).
China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) has also released a report that confirms Android's importance. A report in Chinese in Sina.com, conveyed in English by Tech In Asia, says: "Of the 2,099 new phone models that hit the Chinese market over the past six months, only 822 were smartphones (ie less than 40 percent). Of those smartphones, a whopping 801 (ie more than 97 percent) were Android-based."
Apple is expected to gain market share in China in October when it releases the iPhone 5 with support for China's largest mobile 3G network, which uses TD-SCDMA, and with increased Chinese language support. This will include a Mandarin- and Cantonese-speaking version of Siri. However, it is not going to approach the price of Android phones, some of which already cost less than $50.