China could soon be the most important mobile market in the world. Not only did the country become the leading source of iOS(s AAPL) and Android(s GOOG) device activations in the first quarter of 2012, according to new research from Flurry, but it could enjoy the world’s largest installed based of mobile users before too long.
Flurry’s data–gathered from the analytics software that its clients install in their apps–shows that China accounted for more iOS and Android device activations than the U.S. for the first time in February. Around 24 percent of activations running either of those operating systems in March are expected to come from China, according to projections for the month, while 21 percent of activations will come from the U.S.
China’s growing influence in mobile isn’t really a surprise to anyone paying attention to mobile developments, but the February milestone is worth noting nonetheless. In just a year, China has gone from 8 percent of all device activations to its current position, an astounding growth rate of over 1,100 percent that dwarfs the second-fastest growing smartphone market, Argentina.
There are already twice as many iOS and Android users in China than in the U.K., Flurry said. China has a ways to go before it overtakes the U.S. when it comes to the iOS/Android installed base (currently double the size of China’s market) but its huge population and hunger for smartphones makes it almost inevitable that China will reach that point one day.
Earlier this year Apple CEO Tim Cook highlighted China as an extremely important priority for Apple over the next several years, as much of the growth in the smartphone market is expected to come from countries like China and Brazil. It’s a little more complicated for those on the Android side of the world, given the complexity of the Android app-buying experience in China, but the same opportunity exists.