IDC: Android-Crazy China Passes U.S. As Smartphone Leader, But India’s Growing The Fastest

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The latest figures out from IDC confirm that this is the year that China will overtake the U.S. as the world’s biggest smartphone market, with its 25.5% share a significant lead over the U.S.’s 17.8%. The tipping point has been a long time coming: China is the world’s most-populated country, so it was only a matter of time before it would overtake the U.S. But the trend has been accelerated in the last couple of years with the rise of cheap sub-$200 devices built on Android.

But when it comes to growth, it’s another booming Eastern economy that is leading the pack: India, which this year will only account for 2.5% of all smartphones shipped and sold, is growing at a rate of over 57% in the next several years: but that still will only give it an 8.5% share by 2016. IDC notes that India has one of the lowest smartphone penetration rates in the region.

The trend for cheap, Android-based devices will continue to drive growth at China, too, which will see its share expand at a rate of 26.2%.

If anything the price is going to come down ever more: “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,” writes Wong Teck-Zhung, senior market analyst, Client Devices, IDC Asia/Pacific.

He believes that carrier subsidies and strong domestic vendors will continue to persist as trends in the market, too, and he believes 4G will be “another growth catalyst.”

Those cheap Chinese handsets are not just for Chinese, though. They are also making their way to other emerging markets like Brazil, which will see a much higher rate of growth than China, at 44% — although like India its share is just above 2% of all shipments at the moment.

In contrast, developed markets like the U.S. and UK will see growth at under 12%. In countries like these, the main trend will continue to be current feature phone handset owners upgrading to smartphones, but these countries are also much closer to smartphone saturation — with smartphones already in many cases outnumbering feature devices in current sales. Many analysts already note that the U.S. and UK are tipping into a smartphone majority. In the UK, the eventual launch of LTE will also be a driving force for sales. The first LTE services could launch as early as this year.

Another market that gets a mention by IDC, but which still doesn’t make it beyond the “rest of the world” category, is Mother Russia. IDC, in fact, believes it might be, along with Brazil, among the most hotly contested markets of all in the next five years.

Top Five Smartphone Markets and Market Share for 2011, 2012, and 2016 (based on shipments)

Country 2011
Market Share
2012
Market Share
2016
Market Share
2011 – 2016
CAGR
PRC 18.3% 26.5% 23.0% 26.2%
USA 21.3% 17.8% 14.5% 11.6%
India 2.2% 2.5% 8.5% 57.5%
Brazil 1.8% 2.3% 4.4% 44.0%
United Kingdom 5.3% 4.5% 3.6% 11.5%
Rest of World 51.1% 46.4% 46.0% 18.1%
Total 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 20.5%

Source: IDC Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker, 2012 Q2 Forecast Release, August 30 2012