Apple Inc has a second partner in China to sell the iPhone in the world’s biggest mobile-phone market. The deal may be too late to catch Samsung Electronics Co, with a market share that’s three times larger and growing.
China Telecom Corp joined China Unicom (Hong Kong) Ltd in selling the iPhone this month as Apple tries to build on its 7.5 percent share of the country’s smartphone sales. Samsung controls 24.3 percent of the market for phones that can play videos and games, according to Gartner Inc, using a strategy of allying with all three of the nation’s third-generation networks since such services started in 2009.
Succeeding in China is important for Apple as shipments of smartphones in the country are projected to jump 52 percent this year to 137 million units, overtaking the United States for the first time as the world’s biggest market.
Unlike Samsung’s strategy of partnering with all carriers, Apple has limited its own success by not making a device compatible with the nation’s biggest operator, China Mobile Ltd.
The 16.8 percentage-point gap in China between Apple, based in Cupertino, California, and Samsung almost doubled from the third quarter. While Samsung is No 1 and Apple No 5 in China, the global story is different: Worldwide, Apple passed its competitor, based in Suwon, South Korea, to become the biggest smartphone vendor in the fourth quarter, according to Gartner.
Apple’s partnerships with China’s second- and third-largest carriers give it access to about 34 percent of the nation’s 988 million mobile users, while Samsung targeted the whole market. iPhones aren’t sold to China Mobile’s 655 million subscribers, a number almost equal to the combined population of the US, Brazil and Mexico.