China's smartphone users flock to Android
Google's Android mobile operating system was China's most popular platform in 2011, with its market share ballooning by 35 percent in the space of less than a year.
Beijing-based research analytics firm Analysys International said by the end of 2011, Android had 68 percent of the smartphone operating system market, a figure up from 33 percent only three quarters before, representing a clear double in growth amongst the Chinese market.
China has the world's largest mobile phone market, with a population of around 1.3 billion, and an estimated 988 million mobile phone subscribers.
While the iPhone remains popular in China, Android devices come in many shapes and sizes, and are on the whole far cheaper and more flexible in their capabilities than the iPhone.
While China is still two or three years away from issuing licenses for 4G LTE in the country, top-end 4G-capable Android devices are left behind, unable to reach the super-fast mobile broadband speeds. The iPhone 4S does not have 4G LTE technology, but Apple is expected to add the capability in the next-generation iPhone 5, following the lead from its younger sibling, the iPad 3.
But China has yet to see a widescale rollout of the iPhone yet. The country's biggest mobile carrier now has over 15 million iPhone users, while many refused to switch carriers from the China Unicom exclusive carrier, ZDNet's Hana Stewart-Smith reports, leading to an initial decline in uptake.
China remains Apple's second-most important market after the United States, cemented by chief executive Tim Cook's visit to the region last month. Cook met with the Chinese vice-premier and toured the controversial Foxconn plant where Apple builds its shiny rectangles for the vastly Western consumer market.
China contributed more than 16 percent, or $4.5 billion, to Apple's earnings in Q4 2011, putting the country ahead of the entire 27 member state collective of the European Union.
Apple saw its China market share rise from 4.1 percent in the first quarter to 5.7 percent by the end of the fourth quarter, signalling a rise but of little significance considering China's vast population numbers.
This story originally appeared at ZDNet's Between the Lines under the headline "Android leads over Apple in China's smartphone race."