Chinese smartphone market shrinks for first time in 6 years, but Apple still booming

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The Chinese smartphone market shrunk by 4 percent in the first quarter of calendar 2015, marking the first time it has seen a year over year contraction in six years, even in the face of huge growth by Apple, IDC reported on Monday.

Data from the company's latest Mobile Phone Tracker survey reveals that 98.8 million smartphone units shipped in the country in the first three months of 2015.

Despite the contraction, Apple managed to grow its sales a massive 62.1 percent year over year. IDC estimates that Apple shipped 14.5 million iPhones in China in the quarter, earning the company 14.7 percent market share, making it the country's No. 1 smartphone vendor.

The performance was enough to put Apple ahead of second-place company Xiami, estimated to have shipped 13.5 million smartphones in China in the quarter. In third was Huawei with 11.2 million units, followed by Samsung (9.6 million) and Lenovo (8.2 million) rounding out the top five.

Suffering the worst losses amongst the top five was Samsung, which saw its unit shipments plummet 53 percent year over year in the first quarter, according to IDC.

Lenovo also saw a significant drop of 22.1 percent, while all other smartphone makers outside of the top five fell 8.3 percent. Total smartphone shipments were down from 103.2 million in the year-ago quarter.

"Smartphones are becoming increasingly saturated in China," said Kitty Fok, managing director at IDC China. "China is oftentimes thought of as an emerging market but the reality is that the vast majority of phones sold in China today are smartphones, similar to other mature markets like the U.S., U.K., Australia, and Japan. Just like these markets, convincing existing users as well as feature phone users to upgrade to new smartphones will now be the key to further growth in the China market."

China was once again a stand-out country last quarter, when Apple shipped a record 61 million iPhones, helping to propel the company to $13.6 billion in profit. Overall iPhone sales were up 40 percent year over year — a rate outpaced by the growth seen in China, according to IDC's figures.

Last quarter was Apple's strongest-ever in China, where revenue was up a massive 71 percent year over year.