The world’s largest smartphone market is a shark tank

China has been the biggest smartphone market on the planet for almost six months, which is a mixed blessing for companies such as Nokia (NOK, quote), China Mobile (CHL, quote) and Research in Motion (RIM, quote).

As Strategy Analytics reported in November, smartphone shipments reached a record 24 million units in China during the third quarter of 2011. With just 23 million units shipped  in the U.S, China became the world’s largest smartphone market by volume.

This was a rare piece of good news for Nokia, which had 29% of the smartphone sales in China that quarter.  Nokia’s global share of the smartphone market had plunged due to the new iPhone 4S, and the Chinese market could have been a safe haven for the Finnish manufacturer.

Of course, Apple (AAPLquote) is now launching the iPhone 4S in China. Sorry, Nokia.

Meanwhile, Chinese telecom services and manufacturers are competing hard to get their share of the market. China Telecom (CHAquote) is hooking its fortunes to Apple and selling iPhones. China Unicom (CHUquote) is competing with low-end smartphones that are easy for the average Chinese worker to afford. 

China is now at the forefront of the mobile computing boom, which means interesting times and ferocious competition for every company trying to participate in it. Investors who want a broad exposure to the market should look at the Golden Dragon Halter USX China Portfolio (PGJquote), which devotes over 12% of its holdings to China Unicom, China Telecom, and China Mobile. 

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