China’s stellar smartphone market dips

Jessica Morris, special to

Growth in China's stellar smartphone market has slowed for the first time in more than two years.

Smartphone shipments to China fell 4.3 percent quarter-on-quarter– to 90.8 million from 94.8 million – in the last quarter of 2013 according to IDC's Asia/Pacific Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker.

Philippe Huguen | AFP | Getty Images

Suppliers holding back handset deliveries ahead of the start of China's high speed 4G network was one factor driving the dip. The high-speed network went live on December 18 but 4G handsets were unable to reach the market fully until January -- however this could buoy growth in the first quarter of 2014.

The deal between Apple and China mobile could also boost sales in the first quarter of 2014. The deal – which kicked off in January 17 – made iPhones available on China's smartphone market.

(Read more: Apple, China Mobile strike deal to bring iPhone to China in January)

"The world has increasingly looked to China as the powerhouse to propel the world's smartphone growth and this is the first hiccup we've seen in an otherwise stellar growth path," said Mellissa Chau, Senior Research Manager with IDC Asia/Pacifics Client Devices team in a statement.

Apple tempts Chinese smartphone market

"We are now starting to see a market that is becoming less about capturing the low-hanging fruit of first-time smartphone users and moving into the more laborious process of convincing existing users why they should upgrade to this year's model."

The report also highlights two trends shaping the future of the Asia-Pacific smartphone market. As China's smartphone market becomes increasingly crowded, growth will shift to other emerging markets.

"While India volumes significantly lag (behind) China, India has taken the number three ranking of largest smartphone markets in the world in 2013" the statement said.

China's smartphone makers, who are no longer content with the Chinese market alone, are setting their sights on overseas expansion.

(Read more: China's 4G smartphone market is about to explode)

"China players are getting hungrier to turn themselves into international rather than China-only brands" the statement said.

The latest example of this was seen in Lenovo's acquisition of Motorola's handset business. Meanwhile smaller Chinese smartphone manufacturers such as Oppo, BBK, Gionee and Xiaomi, are increasing their international expansion.