Apple Back Among The Top Five Smartphone Vendors In China On iPhone 5s Success, IDC Reports

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Apple has gained an entire percentage point of market share and cracked the top five smartphone manufacturers, according to the latest figures from research firm IDC. Apple’s share rose from 6 to 7 percent during the fourth quarter of last year, according to a new report (via WSJ) and though that isn’t a huge bump, it makes Apple the fifth-largest smartphone maker in China.

There’s also reason to believe that Apple could climb higher still: These numbers don’t include any sales made through Apple’s partnership with China Mobile, which only began selling the iPhone on January 17, and is in the process of building out its new network to support the device across a wider swath of the population.

Apple’s rise late last year might have something to do with the fact that the company opted to launch its latest iPhone models in the Greater China market simultaneously with its North American and major European market launches – this marks the first time it has done that, and likely helped boost overall iPhone sales by a considerable margin in the company’s fiscal holiday quarter. Apple also won a bigger chunk of a Chinese smartphone market that isn’t growing with nearly the speed it has in the past, so the China Mobile deal is even more significant, as it represents a way for Apple to grow its share in the key market without having to seek out new smartphone buyers.

For Apple, the China Mobile deal represents a huge potential new buyer pool, and signs are good if the iPhone 5s and 5c are already helping drive up their share. But China’s own Xiaomi is nipping at its heels, coming in sixth overall among smartphone makers in the country per IDC, so that could make for a tight race between the two as the Android-based startup OEM continues to chart impressive growth at home.