Though China Telecom recently began selling the iPhone, Apple’s share of the smartphone market in China still lags behind Samsung whose share is a surprising 3 times as big as Apple’s.
As opposed to Apple, Samsung has been willing to play ball with all three of China’s mobile carriers, China Unicom, China Telecom, and China Mobile. Apple’s iPhone, on the other hand, was for the longest time available only on China Unicom before China Telecom began carrying the iPhone recently.
But the golden goose in this equation is undoubtedly China Mobile which has well over half a million mobile subscribers. China Mobile uses a proprietary cellular standard on their network (TD-SCDMA) and Apple thus far hasn’t decided to manufacture an iPhone with hardware that can run on China Mobile’s network.
So in comes Samsung and picks up all the pieces.
The 16.8 percentage-point gap in China between Cupertino, California-based Apple and Samsung almost doubled from the third quarter. While Samsung is No. 1 and Apple No. 5 in China, the global story is different: Worldwide, Apple passed its Suwon, South Korea-based competitor to become the biggest smartphone vendor in the fourth quarter, according to Gartner.
Apple’s partnerships with China’s second- and third-largest carriers give it access to about 34 percent of the nation’s 988 million mobile users,
All told, Apple’s share of the Chinese smartphone market is 7.5% while Samsung’s is 24.3%.
Now that Apple has jumped on the 4G LTE train with the iPad 3, it’s likely that the iPhone 5 will support 4G LTE as well. This is significant but previous reports have hinted that Apple will finally manufacturer specialized iPhone hardware for China Mobile’s proprietary TD-LTE network.
In other words, while Samsung might have an advantage over Apple for the time being, that may all change in just a few months.