IDC: China smartphone shipments to rise to 460M by 2017

In just four years time, one-third of China's population will own a smartphone, according to the latest research, at a time when major Western technology firms are investing in the country.

China's smartphone shipments are forecast to rise rapidly to 460 million by 2017, according to research firm IDC.

Smartphones have already made up more than 58 percent of all total mobile phones sold in the country, which has a booming cellular population of more than 1 billion subscribers. By the end of this year, that figure will grow to 78 percent, and rise again to 90 percent in 2017. 

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Between Samsung and Apple, and China-based ZTE, Huawei and Lenovo, around 213 million smartphones were sold in the country. That's more than double their total shipments a year earlier in 2011, according to IDC (Chinese).

However, it remains unclear in which order the companies were ranked in by smartphone and mobile phone sales.

Both Nokia and Apple are aggressively targeting the Chinese market: for Nokia , it's a survival move, while Apple is seeing increasing revenues from the country. The massive population also gives Western companies, which are typically shunned by the Chinese market, a bid to expand into the region and access the vastly untapped customer base.

According to the research firm, the wealthier segment of the cellular population will continue to opt for smartphones over feature phones, helped along by cellular subsidies and holiday deals to promote the lucrative fourth quarter.

Reuters reports that some smartphones in China are selling for around $160 per device, making the scope in which new smartphone users are attracted to the devices greater and more feasible for those with a lower budget. 

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IDC said, among other things, as the country's 3G development continues, 4G services such as TD-LTE are not too far away in the distance.

While a time frame was not given, the research firm said that "the development of the mobile phone standard TD-SCDMA and TD-LTE in the next few years is expected to step into the fast lane."

Also, with a bevy of Linux-based handsets soon to hit the market—not limited to Firefox OS, Tizen, and Ubuntu for phones—China's smartphone selection will grow even further. It's expected that the smartphone makers will capitalize upon the new mobile platforms in a bid to expand their offerings away from the typical Android and iOS-based devices.

Already there are more than 800 new phone models on sale in China throughout 2012, making it one of the largest consumer-facing markets in the country.