Bad timing? Smartphone shipments in China fall, just as a new player announces its arrival

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For the first time in six years, the amount of smartphones shipped in China has fallen, but it’s not deterring new players from entering the market. The drop isn’t much, just 4.3 percent over this time last year, but it shows the market is nearly mature — and manufacturers will turn their attention to pushing upgrades towards existing users, rather than targeting first time owners.

The news comes via ZDNet and from market analysts IDC China, and the company’s research also showed Apple at the top of the shipment charts with 14.7-percent, followed by Xiaomi with 13.7-percent market share. Behind the leading pair in third position is Huawei with 11.4-percent, then Samsung at 9.7-percent and Lenovo with 8.3-percent market share.

Interestingly, the story this time last year was very different. Samsung led with 19.9-percent market share, way out ahead of Lenovo with 10.2-percent. Xiaomi and Apple were in third and fourth place respectively, each with around 9-percent share. IDC says the results from early 2015 will set the tone for China throughout the year, and it expects flat growth aside from those switching from feature phones to low-cost smartphones costing less than $150.

QiKU’s the new name in town, and it’s going to take on Xiaomi

It’s surprising, then, that a new smartphone company has started up in China. It’s called QiKU, and it’s a joint venture between Qihoo 360 Technology and Coolpad. The target? Xiaomi, and probably its second place in the market too. Qihoo 360 makes security software and operates the search engine, while Coolpad is a well-established phone and tablet manufacturer. Coolpad’s one of the top five manufacturers in China, but its market share has suffered at the hands of Xiaomi over the past year.

At QiKU’s launch event, the company promised a wide variety of high-quality phones, which are rumored to start at around $160 — a key price point in IDC’s research. Qihoo 360’s CEO, Zhou Hongyi, said the hardware would be better built than Xiaomi’s, and more affordable. However, no phones have been revealed just yet. According to a report in the China Daily, they may arrive next month. Qihoo also has its own, newly developed mobile operating system, based on Android, which will almost certainly be installed on the new phones.

QiKU’s target of taking on Xiaomi was already ambitious, and has now been made harder by a stabilizing Chinese smartphone market. We’ll bring you more news on the QiKU phones when they’re fully announced.

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