Smartphone adoption may be high in the U.S. but overall smartphone sales are highest in China. A new research note published by Strategy Analytics on Wednesday estimates that 23.9 million smartphones shipped in China during the third quarter of 2011. That figure is slightly above the 23.3 million smartphones shipped in the U.S.
Clearly, China’s much larger population is part of the reason, but this data suggests that in a country with 1.3 billion people, China is where it’s at for smartphone sales growth going forward. If the smartphone numbers aren’t convincing, consider that China is expected to surpass 1 billion mobile connections by May, 2012.
For the moment, this news is good for Nokia(s nok), which shipped 6.8 million smartphones in China last quarter — the most from any vendor, ahead of Samsung at No. 2 (4.2 million units). Nokia and Samsung, say Strategy Analytics, accounted for 46.1 percent of China’s smartphone market.
This is a marked contrast from the U.S. where the top two handset makers in terms of shipments were HTC and Apple(s aapl) in the most recent quarter. The pair combined for 10.4 million units to take 44.6 percent of the U.S. smartphone market.
While the leading brands are different, China shares the same reasons for smartphone growth, estimated to be a 58 percent sequential jump from the prior quarter. Heavy carrier subsidies and an “emerging wave of low-cost Android models from local Chinese brands such as ZTE” are two primary factors according to Tom Kang, Director at Strategy Analytics.
Combine subsidies and a flood of Android devices with a growing number of mobile connections and I’d say you’ve got a recipe for another smartphone revolution. Only this time, we’ll be watching it from U.S. shores.