China Unseats US, Now World’s Largest Market for Smart Devices

China has unseated the US as the world’s largest market for smart devices, according to a report issued by the mobile analytics firm, Flurry.

China is expected to lead the market for smart devices by the end of February with some 246 million active users on Google (GOOG) Android and Apple (AAPL) iOS smartphones and tablets.

The figure puts China past the US’s 230 million units for the first time.  The announcement, which appeared on Flurry’s website recently, comes just a year after the firm first reported that China had become the world’s fastest-growing market for smart devices.

“We also conclude that the US will not take back the lead from China, given the vast difference in population of each country,”  said Peter Farago, vice-president for marketing at Flurry.  China has over 1.3 billion people while the US has just over 310 million.

“The only country that could feasibly overtake China sometime in the future is India, with a population of just over 1.2 billion,” Farago said.

Rapid device adoption

As of January this year, China and the US had roughly the same smart device installed base with 221 million and 222 million active units, respectively. The UK ranked third among the world’s biggest markets for smart device products with some 43 million active units.  South Korea followed with 30 million active devices while Japan ranked fifth with 29 million units in use.

“Both China and the US continue to see rapid device adoption,” Farago said.  He said US consumers bought some 55 million new smart devices between January 2012 and January 2013.  Chinese consumers, however, purchased nearly three times as much over the same period with a staggering 150 million new devices.

Farago said China would have surpassed the US earlier with its growth rate, but hefty consumer spending during the US holiday season held off China for an additional two months.

Flurry used its entire data set to draw its conclusions, tracking more than 2.4 billion anonymous, aggregated application sessions a day across more than 275,000 applications worldwide.  The research and analysis firm estimates that its survey reliably measures activity across more than 90 percent of the world’s smart devices.

New Opportunities

Observers have noted that the huge Chinese market for smart devices offers a variety of attractive new opportunities for the global information technology (IT) and telecommunications industries.  “Over the coming 5 to 10 years, China’s IT, telecommunications and electronics industry will grow in importance as the Chinese government and enterprises have decided to upscale their investments in IT deployment,” said a recent report by Denmark’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

A number of US-based companies have already taken heed. The California-based company, RingCentral, for instance, has started a service that allows Chinese suppliers to connect instantly with buyers in the US through the web service,

Apple CEO, Tim Cook, meanwhile predicts that China will one day be his company’s number one customer. “China is currently our second largest market,” Cook told the state-run Xinhua News Agency in Beijing.  “I believe it will become our first,” he said.  Apple now has 11 retail stores in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Chengdu and Hong Kong.

450 million broadband users

China is home to some 450 million broadband users, says the online marketing blog, China Internet Watch (CIW) .  Around 66 percent of China’s internet users access the web through mobile phones.  They spend an average of around 2.6 hours a day online.

Broadband penetration rate in China is at 98 percent, but the average internet connection is only 100.9 kbps.  This is far below the 230.4 kbps global average, CIW observes.