China outpaces U.S. in smartphone shipments for top spot globally

U.S. share of total expected to decline through 2016

China will overtake the U.S. as the global leader in smartphone shipments this year, according to IDC.

China will receive 26.5% of all smartphone shipments for 2012, compared to 17.8% for the U.S. In 2011, the U.S. had 21.3%, compared to China's 18.3%.

Sales of smartphones priced below $200 have boosted China's smartphone market, IDC explained. The variety of devices and competitors as well as the migration to faster 4G networks will keep China on top through at least 2016.

The U.S. will remain the second largest market for smartphones through at least 2016, but India (in third place) and Brazil (in fourth place) will see the largest growth of all countries during the next four years, IDC said.

Smartphones have now become the majority of mobile phone shipments and growth is expected to continue, although at a slower pace, IDC said.

"The fact that China will overtake the U.S. in smartphone shipments does not mean that the U.S. smartphone market is grinding to a halt," said Ramon Llamas in a statement on Thursday. "There is still a market for first-time users, as well as thriving upgrade opportunities."

Following the U.S and China in smartphone shipments in 2011 were the UK, with 5.3%; India, with 2.2%; and Brazil, with 1.8%.

This year, after China and the U.S., the UK accounts for 4.5% of smartphone shipments, India, 2.5% of all shipments, and Brazil, 2.3%.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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