China Takes #1 Spot as World’s Largest Smartphone Market

China Cell Phone Tower

Step aside USA. China has become the world’s largest smartphone market, surpassing the US for the first time for actively used smartphones and tablets, according to recent data released by Flurry, the mobile analytics firm.

Flurry tracked more than 2.4 billion application sessions across more than 275,000 applications around the world. The firm estimates it can reliably track data across more than 90 percent of the world’s devices. It estimated that the US and China were neck and neck in January, with 222 million in the US versus 221 million in China. Based on historical trends, Flurry estimates that by the end of this month, China will have 246 million devices compared to 230 million in the U.S.

The news comes less than a year after Flurry reported China had become the world’s fastest smart device market. Flurry credits China’s rapidly growing middle class with closing the gap.

The firm doesn’t expect the US to ever catch up to China, based on China’s population of 1.3 billion compared to the US’s 310 million.

“Considering that the U.S. has the world’s 3rd largest population, the only other country that could feasibly overtake China sometime in the future is India, with a population of just over 1.2 billion,” Flurry stated in its blog. “However, with only 19 million active smart devices in India, China will not likely see competition from India for many years.”

However, the US naturally maintains a good chunk of the global smartphone market. The US and China each have about five times the number of smartphone users as the UK, the third largest smartphone market in the world. The US and China continue to have strong adoption rates, though the US added only 55 million devices in 2012, compared to China’s impressive 150 million devices. Considering that fast growth rate, Flurry had expected China to surpass the American market much earlier, but Christmas and other holidays in the US managed to boost sales to delay China taking the lead until now.

China, however, no longer leads the world for smartphone growth, despite its impressive 209 percent rate of growth on top of a base of 71 million devices from January 2012. Countries that managed faster growth than China this year include Columbia, Vietnam, Turkey, Ukraine and Egypt.

China’s rapid smartphone adoption will naturally change the game of the global mobile industry. Already, Apple has targeted China as its number one market, despite the fact that the market is dominated by Android devices. Apple’s revenues for China were  $6.8 million last quarter. Android has had nearly three-quarters of the market by smartphone sales, 23 percent of which can be attributed to Samsung.

“Apple and Google have helped create the fastest adopted technology revolution in history, 10X faster than that of the PC Revolution and 3X that of the Internet Boom,” Flurry stated on its blog. “And now, as the largest and fastest modernizing country in the world, Chinese consumers lead that revolution.”