Android grabs 90 percent of China’s smartphone market

The world is full of ironies. The latest comes from China, whose government frequently blocks most of Google’s properties. Yet, inside the country, more than 90 percent of smartphones run Android. Not laughing is Apple, with just a single-digit share of this enormous market. Specifically, Android’s share hit 90.1 percent mark in Q3 2012.

At the same time, iOS recorded just a 4.2 share, new research finds. Seemingly at the heart of problem for Apple: price. While the average price of an Android-powered handset is $179, the iPhone carries a $726 average price tag. The iPhone 5 can’t hit Chinese shelves too soon…

According to China-based research firm Analysys International (via The Next Web), Android’s presence has steadily climbed from 58.2 percent a year ago to 83 percent three months ago.

Meanwhile, Apple’s share actually slipped from six percent. While the iPhone and iPad likely are more powerful than Android, the difference could be akin to offering users the choice between a Rolls-Royce and a Chevy Impala – anything would be better than what the China mobile user is accustomed to.

China’s regulators recently approved Apple’s application for an LTE device, opening the way for official iPhone 5 sales. The handset has been available for some time via the Hong Kong gray market. Analysts also expect China Mobile, the nation’s largest carrier, will finally offer its millions of customers a chance to purchase the latest iPhone.

The unanswered question is whether the iPhone 5 will entice more Chinese to try the Apple smartphone. Apple will also have to try better to plug the flow of graymarket handsets coming from outside the country and diluting its market.

As for Android, a large part of its popularity – aside from the price – is the broad ecosystem it has developed, from search to email. To harvest the crop of consumers it has grown, the Internet giant will need to somehow get out from under the Great Firewall before home-grown competitors steal the thunder.

Is a more competitively-priced smartphone all Apple needs in order to battle back against Android’s China lead?