After a visit to some of the handset supply chain players in China at the end of 2013, Digitimes Research found that China-based vendors' smartphone shipments in the fourth quarter of 2013 saw a slight growth sequentially, but entry-level models had poor shipment performance, especially those from white-box players in Southern China that mainly sell products to Indonesia and India. These players' combined shipments from September to December 2013 dropped 20-30% on average compared to their volume from July to August.
Digitimes Research estimates that most of China's local first-tier and second-tier brand vendors enjoyed sequential shipment growth in the fourth quarter and their shipments were mostly inexpensive entry-level and mid-range models. Their smartphones' screen sizes are also growing larger with most of their mid-range and even mid-range/entry-level models featuring a 4.7- to slightly above 5-inch displays.
As for 2014, most supply chain players are conservative about China's smartphone industry and expect around 20-30% on-year growth. China's telecom service providers are advancing to the 4G era and shipments of TD-LTE smartphones are expected to surge in 2014. But a large portion of the growth will come from the replacement of 3G models, especially China Mobile's TD-SCDMA smartphones. This means overall growth in China's smartphone market will be limited.