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Samsung spanks Apple in world's biggest mobile market

iPhone maker snubs 650m Chinese punters

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Apple’s efforts to dominate the largest mobile market in the world are being frustrated by old foe Samsung and its own stubborn refusal to bring out a 3G device compatible with market-leading network China Mobile.

According to Gartner stats picked by Bloomberg, Apple still languishes in fifth place in the smartphone market in The People’s Republic - way behind leader Samsung which has just under a quarter of the market.

Although Apple is number one globally, the gap between it and Samsung in the biggest market in the world actually doubled since the third quarter, the report said.

In many ways, Cupertino only has itself to blame by refusing to produce a phone compatible with China Mobile’s homegrown TD-SCDMA 3G network. Although Apple has deals to sell iPhones via China Unicom and China Telecom, it is missing out on a potential subscriber base of over 650m users by not cozying up to the market leader, something that Samsung did very early on.

The appetite is obviously there; China Mobile last week announced that it has a staggering 15m unofficial iPhone customers using unlocked phones on its 2G network.

With 4G networks still years away in China, it remains to be seen whether Apple will back down and develop a device for China Mobile, although users won’t hold their breath. In fact, 3G services in The People’s Republic have generally been poorly received and only account for around 13 per cent of smartphone users, so the majority could be happy enough wait until 4G comes along.

Ministry of Industry and Information Technology chief Miao Wei has stated that the government is planning to wait until the base station infrastructure has been upgraded and extended to number around 400,000 before it dishes out licences – something likely to take between two and three years.

In the meantime, the legal feud between Samsung and Apple continued unabated with the Korean handset maker filing a lawsuit in a Seoul court claiming the iPhone 4S and iPad 2 infringe three of its patents. ®

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