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China now leads world in iOS and Android device activations

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China's growing tech-savvy middle class has contributed to a sharp rise in mobile device sales over the past year, and new data reveals that the country has overtaken the U.S. to become the world's largest market for iOS and Android device activations for the first time.

In a report released on Wednesday, analytics firm Flurry found that in February Chinese mobile users activated more devices running the two top mobile operating systems, Apple's iOS and Google's Android, than any other country.

By tracking its entire data set of over 1 billion aggregated app sessions per day across 160,000 apps, Flurry was able to quantitatively measure the growth rate of device activations through software usage. An app session is characterized by the launch and use of a particular app, like opening a news reader and browsing articles for two minutes.

In looking at the 15 months following the first quarter of 2011, China gained 16 percent of the world market for new iOS and Android activations, jumping from 8 percent in January 2011 to an expected 24 percent by the end of March 2012. For comparison, the U.S. fell from a 28 percent share of new activations to 21 percent over the same period.

Interestingly, the growth of iOS and Android device activations in China remained fairly level until September 2011 when the country began its climb to the top. That month Apple launched the iPad 2 in China to an almost overwhelming demand that caused a brief suspension of sales due to rowdy crowds. The same rise in device activations was also seen in the U.S. during the same period, though a precipitous decline initiated in December brought the country's worldwide market share below China's by February.

China took passed the U.S. in February to become the world leader in iOS and Android activations. | Source: Flurry

Although the U.S. still trumps China in its installed iOS and Android user base, the rocketing adoption rate in China's burgeoning market is helping to close the gap between the two countries. Current estimates put the number of active devices in the Chinese market at less than half of the more saturated U.S. market, though the country's rocketing customer base has the potential to take the top spot and already boasts twice as many users than third-place U.K.

China is the second largest app economy and saw an amazing increase in app sessions over the past year, moving up from 7th place on a 1126 percent increase in app usage since the first quarter of 2011. To give a better perspective of China's staggering growth, the uptick in app use represents a figure nearly double that of next-fastest Argentina's 599 percent.

Flurry graph-2
China's app use has grown an amzing 1126% over the past year to become the world's second-largest app economy. | Source: Flurry

Apple launched the iPhone 4S through its second official Chinese partner carrier China Telecom earlier in March, adding to the already strong sales seen from the country's number two carrier China Unicom.

Although not an official Apple partner, the world's largest wireless carrier China Mobile has reported that at least 15 million iPhones are being used on its network. The Cupertino, Calif., company is reportedly looking into a future deal with China Mobile, which would open the doors to the carrier's 600 million existing subscribers.