Apple may be the largest smartphone vendor in the world, but in China it remains an upstart. There — in the world’s most populous country, which recently topped 1 billion mobile subscribers — that market-leading title is worth only a fifth-place ranking. In China, it’s Samsung that is the smartphone sovereign.
According to data from Gartner, Samsung’s smartphone market share in China is more than triple that of Apple’s — 24.3 percent to Apple’s 7.5 percent. A massive gap, but the reason for it is simple: Samsung currently has deals with three of China’s 3G mobile networks, while Apple has two. And that missing third deal is an all-important one with China’s largest carrier, China Mobile, which has about 655 million subscribers.
Apple has long been in talks with China Mobile to bring the iPhone to its network, but discussions have reportedly been difficult because of the carrier’s insistence that it be given a cut of App Store revenues.
As I wrote last year: “Historically, Apple has never done this, and almost certainly doesn’t want to begin doing so now. And with 10 million unlocked iPhones already on China Mobile’s network, and the carrier encouraging them with gift cards for free Wi-Fi service (the iPhone isn’t compatible with the carrier’s TD-SCDMA 3G network), there’s little reason to rush into a deal, particularly one that will require it to produce a TD-SCDMA-compatible iPhone. So Apple is sitting back and focusing its efforts on the 4G TD-LTE iPhone that will presumably succeed the 4S, and working to ensure that it will be compatible with China Mobile’s network.”