China smartphone sales fall for first time: report

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While growth is high in Middle East and other emerging markets, smartphone sales slacken globally, Gartner reports

By Barry Eitel

SAN FRANCISCO – Worldwide smartphone sales saw the most sluggish growth since 2013 during this year’s second quarter, with sales in China dropping for the first time, claimed research firm Gartner in a report Thursday.

Gartner claims 330 million smartphones were sold during the second quarter of 2015 (which spanned from the beginning of April to the end of June), meaning sales grew just 13.5 percent compared to the same period last year. Gartner’s market research analysts noted that sales of smartphones running on Google’s Android mobile operating system, the most popular in the world, experienced their slowest year-on-year growth ever.

Still, demand for smartphone is hot in young markets. Asia (excluding China), Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa were the regions where smartphone penetration was growing the fastest.

“While demand for lower-cost 3G and 4G smartphones continued to drive growth in emerging markets, overall smartphone sales remained mixed region by region in the second quarter of 2015,” Anshul Gupta, research director at Gartner, said in a statement Thursday.

Sales in China, the most populous country on Earth as well as the biggest smartphone market, fell 4 percent year-over-year. This marks the first ever sales decline in China (which still bought about a third of the total smartphone sold during the quarter), a worrisome milestone for device manufacturers.  

“China has reached saturation — its phone market is essentially driven by replacement, with fewer first-time buyers,” Gupta continued. “Beyond the lower-end phone segment, the appeal of premium smartphones will be key for vendors to attract upgrades and to maintain or grow their market share in China.”

Even though Apple’s iPhones took up a larger share of the market compared to last year and saw huge growth in China, the company’s stock was battered by the report, dropping over 2.3 percent by the close of markets. Shares of Google and smartphone maker Samsung also declined in the wake of the report.

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