Riley Avron, Purdue University electrical engineering student and summer intern working with the Mars Science Laboratory mission, shows an Apple iPhone app which he created to control and simulate the movements of the Scarecrow Mars Rover at the Mars Yard (Photo : Reuters)
If the iPhone 5 is to compete with the top dogs of the Chinese smartphone market, it will need to lower its price and use a TD-SCDMA chipset to improve its appeal and position itself to overtake Samsung.
TD-SCDMA stands for Time Division Synchronous Code Division Multiple Access, which is a mainstay of Chinese wireless communication.
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According to EWeek, the Chinese smartphone market is poised to be the largest in the world by 2017. The site reports that Samsung, the market share front-runner in the US, holds 20.8 percent of the Chinese smartphone market. Second place went to Lenovo, with only 11 percent market share. Apple falls in seventh place, owning 7.5 percent of the market.
Kevin Wang, director of China electronics research at IHS states, "Among all the international smartphone brands competing in China, Apple is the only one not offering a product that complies with the domestic TD-SCDMA air standard."
He adds, "For Apple, this is a huge disadvantage, as TD-SCDMA represents the fastest-growing major air standard for smartphones in China, with shipments of compliant phones expected to rise by a factor of 10 from 2011 to 2016."
In addition to offering phones that do not use TD-SCDMA chipsets, Apple's reluctance to offer a cheap alternative of the iPhone to China may limit the company's ability to grow its market share.
An IHS report states that Apple's unwillingness to sell a $99 phone in China has "helped Samsung to reclaim its leading worldwide position in the global smartphone market, six months after losing the top spot to Apple."
Apple CEO Tim Cook responded to Apple's performance in the Chinese market, stating: "I'm very pleased that we were able to grow our iPhone sales over 100 percent last quarter. So, yes, I feel very, very good about that ... so we're going to stick to our knitting and make the best products, and we think that if we do that, we've got a very, very good business ahead of us. So that's what we're doing."
While China is still Apple's second most lucrative market, there is a lot of room for growth in the coming years. Samsung, who already maintains a vast lead in market share to Apple, has already established itself as a provider of cheap, TD-SCDMA compatible smartphones.
The jury is still out on whether Apple will cater to the Chinese market with a more affordable iPhone, and if such a deal would make its way back to the US.
As the war continues to rage between Samsung and Apple, China will certainly be an important battleground.