Total Smartphone Shipments Fall in China

BEIJING — Total smartphone shipments in China fell about 4% in the fourth quarter of 2013 from the third quarter according to research firm IDC, the latest signal that the explosive growth in the world’s largest smartphone market is likely to moderate in coming years.

According to IDC, 90.8 million handsets were shipped in the fourth quarter, down from 94.8 million in the third. The drop in shipments is the first in more than two years and could forebode harder times for both domestic and foreign smartphone companies looking to China for growth.“This is the first hiccup we’ve seen in an otherwise stellar growth path,” IDC analyst Melissa Chau wrote in a note.

“We are now starting to see a market that is becoming less about capturing the low-hanging fruit of first time smartphone users and moving into the more laborious process of convincing existing users why they should upgrade to this year’s model,” she said.

Analysts said the slowdown might be due in part to many customers waiting for China’s speedier next-generation network to come online before purchasing their next handset.

Still, the drop in smartphone sales mirrors a slowdown in the growth rate of Internet penetration. Analysts say that could be an indicator that a large portion of the potential smartphone market has already been tapped.

In its note, IDC said it expected growth in Asia to shift to other emerging markets like India. In turn, IDC argued, China’s quickly growing low-cost handset makers, like Huawei Technologies Co. and Lenovo Group Ltd., are likely to look to expand more aggressively overseas.


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