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Apple Inc. Launches iPhone 6 And iPhone 6 Plus In China
Apple store employees welcome the customers to buy iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus at an Apple store on October 17, 2014 in Beijing, China. Photograph by Feng Li — Getty Images

Just How Popular Is the iPhone in China?

May 18, 2016

The number of iPhones currently in-use in China exceeds even those running in the U.S., according to a new report.

The China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), a state-run agency that monitors the country's Internet, reported recently that there were 780 million smartphones in-use in China at the end of 2015. Out of that pool, Apple's iPhone was the most popular smartphone, securing 16.8% of the market, according to the CNNIC report, which was earlier found by Quartz. Apple was followed by Samsung's 15.8% market share and China-based Xiaomi, which was able to nab 15.6% of the market, according to the report.

The most important finding, though, was that the data suggests there are now more than 131 million iPhones in-use in China at the end of 2015, making it a larger market for Apple than the U.S., which is estimated to have 110 million active iPhone users, according to data released earlier this year by Consumer Intelligence Research Partners.

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China's importance to Apple (aapl) has been a topic of interest in recent weeks after the company last month announced its fiscal second quarter earnings. Apple revealed that while it generated $12.5 billion in revenue in China, that result was down 26% compared to the same period in 2015.

China has long been viewed as critical to Apple's business thanks to its massive population and booming middle class. However, consumers in the country have become more discerning and have apparently started to move away from Apple products for alternatives. The shift resulted in Apple CEO Tim Cook needing to reassure investors that Apple could regain its footing in China. He's also currently in India, where he believes, Apple could generate significant revenue in the coming years as more of that country's consumers come online and enter the middle class.

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Putting a number on how many iPhones are actually used in China is an important data point as analysts and investors look to the future.

While Apple shares total iPhone unit sales, the Cupertino, Calif.-based company doesn't say how many of its devices it sold in each country. Now that the CNNIC has apparently spilled the beans, the data point can be used in the future to see how the iPhone's popularity is waxing or waning in a country that generates billions of dollars for Apple each quarter.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

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