Shipments of smartphones in the China market declined 6.4% sequentially in the first quarter of 2014 as consumers delayed plans for the purchase of new phones or replacements, given that handset vendors have postponed the release of sub-CNY1,000 (US$160) 4G models to the second quarter due to a high inventory levels of 3G smartphones, according to Digitimes Research.
Samsung Electronics ranked the top smartphone vendor in China in terms of shipment volume in the first quarter of 2014, followed by Apple, Xiaomi Technology and Coolpad, said Digitimes Research.
However, the popularity of the sub-CNY1,000 4G models did not pick up significantly in the first quarter of 2014 since the availability of 4G chipset solutions supporting 10 band, 5-mode standards is limited to only Qualcomm and Marvell Technology. 4G smartphones built with Qualcomm's solutions are priced CNY1,500-2,000, while those built using Marvell's can be available for less than CNY1,000. Coolpad was the only vendor that adopts Marvell's 4G solutions in the first quarter of 2014.
China Mobile has a total of 770 million mobile service subscribers, accounting for over 60% of China's mobile service market, making the carrier a major force to push 4G services in China. Initially, users looking for 4G are more likely to buy high-end smartphones from international brands. Apple, which began to promote its 4G-enabled iPhones in China in cooperation with China Mobile in mid-January 2014, thus became the biggest winner in the race for 4G smartphone sales in China in the first quarter.
With handset vendors expected to complete their transition from 3G to 4G and clear-out 3G inventories, plus the release of 4G solutions by MediaTek in the second quarter of 2014, China-based vendors will be eager to launch sub-CNY1,000 4G smartphones starting in the quarter, accelerating the expansion of the 4G subscriber base for China Mobile.
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