In terms of shipments, despite the recent slow-down for the constant market growth for years, China has remained the world’s largest smartphone market since 2012. In 2018, smartphone shipments in China reached over 397 million units, accounting for about 28 percent of the total volume of global smartphone shipments. Back in 2015, the number of mobile phone users in China is projected to reach about 1.1 billion by 2019 with as many as 63 percent of them smartphone owners, while current mobile phone subscriptions as of September 2019 has already exceeded 1.6 million in China. The mobile phone service in China is provided by three domestic telecommunication network operators: China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom.
At the beginning of 2018, the sales value of smartphones in China had amounted to about 41.1 billion dollars. The large smartphone market in China also led to fierce competition among various manufacturers. Apple and Samsung were leading market player since the beginning of the smartphone era, but had been gradually losing market share to domestic smartphone makers in China like Huawei, Oppo, Vivo and Xiaomi. In the third quarter of 2019, the shipment volume of iPhone dropped to approximately 8.1 million units, which was half of the peak of around 17 million five years ago, while the Chinese domestic brand Huawei ranked first with a shipment volume of about 41.5 million units. The Chinese companies have long left the cheap segment and are producing more and more high-end smartphones with considerable success. They are benefiting from a rich local smartphone manufacturing and design ecosystem, which allows them to compete with foreign smartphone brands.
In terms of operating system market share, the Chinese market was dominated by Google’s Android OS and Apple’s iOS. The two systems occupied about 99 percent of the market by the end of 2018, while the market share of SymbianOS had dropped from 39 percent at the beginning of 2012 to only 0.01 percent by the end of 2016.
The outstanding development of the smartphone market in China is closely associated with the increasing popularity of mobile smartphone useage in the country. The majority of China’s internet users use a smartphone as their primary means of going online. According to a survey on internet use, the average daily time spent with non-voice mobile activities by adults in China had reached 99 minutes. More and more people could not live without their smartphones. When asked about the activities on their smartphones, about 50 percent of smartphone users stated that they watched online videos on their smartphones at least once a week.