Smartphone shipments to China are expected to grow nearly 1.4-fold this year to 164 million units, strengthening its newly-claimed position as the world’s top smartphone market, a Qualcomm executive told reporters in Taipei yesterday, citing an unspecified report.
By next year, shipments will jump to 270 million units, with a big portion comprising low-cost smartphones costing about 1,000 yuan (US$159), Qualcomm vice president and managing director of Asia, China James Shen (沈勁) said.
Growing popularity of low-cost smartphones from Chinese brands made that possible, Shen said. Last year, smartphone shipments to China topped 70 million units, he said.
A rapid shift to 3G networks from 2G technology also helped boost the adoption of smartphones, Shen said. Qualcomm has more than 80 Chinese 3G customers and many of them used to focus on making 2G handsets in the past, he added.
China became the world’s biggest smartphone market by units in the third quarter of last year, overtaking the US, according to research firm Strategy Analytics. Shipments to China expanded to an historical high of 24 million during the quarter, exceeding the 23 million units shipped to the US, Strategy Analytics’ statistics showed.
Qualcomm counts China’s major handset makers, Huawei Technologies Co Ltd (華為) and ZTE Corp (中興), as well as Chinese smartphone startup Xiaomi Corp (小米), as its clients. Qualcomm has a US$100 million investment in Xiaomi.
The investment was based on the company’s long-term support for innovation and to telecoms operator partners, Shen said.
Xiaomi announced on Feb. 8 that it had launched CDMA version handsets with China Telecom (中國電信).
Shen also expects price-driven competition in the Chinese market to intensify this year. Qualcomm aims to grow its market share in China with proper pricing strategies, he said. He did not give details.
Last year, Qualcomm sold 15 times more smartphone chips to China than in the previous year, he said.
To boost Qualcomm’s brand awareness in China, the US chipmaker plans to launch a campaign later this month that includes giving a Chinese name to its Snapdragon chipset series.