China overtakes US to become largest smartphone market

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China has overtaken the US to become the world’s largest smartphone market in terms of devices sold. That’s according to a report by research firm Strategy Analytics.

Although China has overtaken the US when it comes to smartphone volumes, the latter still leads when it comes revenue.

According to the research firm, shipments hit 24-million units in China during the third quarter of 2011, compared to 23-million in the US.

“China is now at the forefront of the worldwide mobile computing boom,” said Strategy Analytics executive director Neil Mawston, adding that the Asian powerhouse has “become a large and growing smartphone market that no hardware vendor, component maker or content developer can afford to ignore.”

Strategy Analytics says that smartphone shipments in China grew a massive 58% in the third quarter over the previous quarter. In the US, meanwhile, shipments fell seven percent to 23.3-million units in the same period.

“China’s rapid growth has been driven by an increasing availability of smartphones in retail channels, aggressive subsidizing by operators of high-end models like the Apple iPhone, and an emerging wave of low-cost Android models from local Chinese brands,” Strategy Analytics director Tom Kang said.

Finnish mobile communications giant Nokia still has the lion’s share of China’s smartphone market, owning around 28%. In the States, Taiwanese manufacturer HTC is the market leader, with around 24% share.

China is rapidly gaining ground on the US in a number of key tech areas. It has, for instance, already overtaken the western superpower to become the country with the largest online population.

Of its 500-million or so web users, some 300-million have registered accounts on the country’s popular microblogging platforms, including Sina Weibo and TenCent Weibo. This is more than the number of users Twitter has worldwide.

Meanwhile, the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), a firm that specialises in advising on business strategy reckons that China will overtake the US to become the world’s largest ecommerce market by 2015.

China’s thirst for technology, particularly mobile devices, has resulted in thriving grey and black markets.

When the iPhone4S was launched in Hong Kong, there were reports of people buying devices in the hundreds to resell later.

The country also has a history of making cheap imitations of popular western devices. Perhaps the most renowned in recent months was the “Hi-Phone5“. The Apple rip-off comes with a stylus for its very basic touchscreen as well as one feature not found on the real iPhone: An FM radio.

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