China ahead of US in smartphone shipment in Q1

Asian country takes 22 percent of smartphone market share last quarter while United States accounts for 16 percent--a reversal of figures a year ago, says research firm.

Smartphone shipments in China were ahead of shipments the United States in the first quarter of 2012, with the Asian economy taking up 22 percent of global smartphone shipment and the western economy representing 16 percent of market share, reports Canalys.

In a statement Thursday, the research firm noted that the market share for China and U.S. were the opposite a year ago. This year, shipments in U.S. grew slower, at 5 percent, compared to the overall smartphone growth in the Asia-Pacific region which stood at 81 percent, it added.

Global smartphone shipment reached 146 million units with a 45 percent year-on-year growth rate, it noted.

In China, Samsung was the top smartphone vendor with 22 percent of market share during the first quarter. "Samsung expanded its smart phone business substantially through its existing mobile phone channels. Its wide range of localized devices helped increase uptake across all carriers, and it combined this with significant marketing spend to drive consumer awareness," said Nicole Peng, research director for China at Canalys.

She added that Apple's market share in the country grew to 19 percent, boosted by seasonal factors such as the lunar new year and the arrival of the handset at two of the country's carriers.

Nokia fell into third place in China but Canalys believes that the launc of Lumia devices in the country will help it regain traction.

Local smartphone vendors, such as ZTE, Huawei and Lenovo, were "hot on the heels" of the top three players, said the report. While these vendors have benefitted from offering competitively-priced Google Android, Canalys noted that they are not confined to the price-sensitive market.

"A key facet of Huawei's brand strategy for 2012 is to move up and compete in higher value devices and services," Peng said. "It is developing a clearer marketing proposition that, combined with its cloud services, will prove more attractive to consumers in China."