China is on the brink of becoming the largest smartphone market worldwide this year, according to a new report from market intelligence firm IDC.
Specifically, China is projected to account for 26.5 percent of all smartphone shipments in 2012, compared to 17.8 percent for the current leader, the United States.
IDC analysts are attributing the surge for China to two primary factors: strong end-user demand and the growth of lower-priced smartphones.
Wong Teck-Zhung, a senior market analyst covering Client Devices for IDC Asia/Pacific, explained in the report that the Chinese smartphone market will get a boost especially thanks to Android handhelds priced under $200 USD.
Near-term prices in the low-end segment will come down to US$100 and below as competition for market share intensifies among smartphone vendors. Carrier-subsidized and customized handsets from domestic vendors will further support the migration to smartphones and boost shipments. Looking ahead to the later years in the forecast, the move to 4G networks will be another growth catalyst.
Nevertheless, Ramon Llamas, a senior research analyst with IDC's Mobile Phone Technology and Trends program, also warned in the report that just because China will take the lead does not mean the U.S. market is falling apart.
Now that smartphones represent the majority of mobile phone shipments, growth is expected to continue, but at a slower pace. There is still a market for first-time users as well as thriving upgrade opportunities.
By 2016, IDC analysts predict that the global smartphone market will see an even bigger shakeup, although China and the United States are still expected to hold the top two spots.
But India, in particular, will see the greatest increase with a 57.5 percent point change to account for 8.5 percent of the global smartphone marketshare in due time.
Table via IDC