iPhone 5 hits China to reclaim Apple’s lost market share

Following the iPad mini’s debut in China a week earlier and the iPhone 5 arrival in South Korea, Apple today like a clockwork started sales of the iPhone 5 in China. While the handset is scheduled to launch in an additional 31 markets on Friday, including Russia, China is the top priority. Home to population of 1.33 billion people, China is a huge opportunity for the California-based company.

The company has only a few stores in China, but the country now accounts for fifteen percent of Apple’s fiscal 2011 revenue, second only to US.

Monday, China Unicom announced more than 300,000 pre-orders for the device and rival China Telecom is thought to have similar figures. Unfortunately, China Mobile, the largest carrier in the world, will once again be sitting on the sidelines, thought its president is adamant that the iPhone deal is in the works.

Hopefully the iPhone 5 launch in China will help recover some of market share losses Apple suffered during the third quarter over an avalanche of inexpensive Android handsets and local brands…

Other countries getting Apple’s latest handset on Friday, December 14: Albania, Antigua and Barbuda, Armenia, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Ecuador, Grenada, Indonesia, Israel, Jamaica, Jordan, Kuwait, Macedonia Malaysia, Moldova, Montenegro, Panama, Paraguay, Philippines, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Taiwan, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.

And as previously promised, the handset goes on sale on December 21 in Barbados, Botswana, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Egypt, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritius, Morocco, Niger, Senegal, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, St.Vincent & the Grenadines, Tunisia, Uganda and Vietnam.

The Next Web reports that a rare snow spoiled the launch, though the lack of crowds shouldn’t be interpreted as a sign of subdued customer interest:

A rare Beijing snowstorm didn’t help matters in the country’s capital, either, and shortly after 8am, there were few customers in sight at the company’s Sanlitun Village location, while retail workers waiting to greet the non-existent iPhone buyers warmed themselves by singing Christmas carols.

Now, in case you were wondering, Apple’s ranking in China’s smartphone market fell two spots to sixth place.

Per IDC, the iPhone’s share of shipments to the country dropped below ten percent during the third quarter, coinciding with Chinese smartphone shipments topping 60 million handset units, a new high.

IDC ranks Samsung as China’s top handset vendor in terms of device shipments and China-based Lenovo second. To illustrate just how massive China market is, the country previously passed the United States in terms of iOS and Android activations.

The iPhone 5 is pretty costly in China, due to a local electronics import tax. For example, a sixteen gigabyte model sells for RMB 5,288, or approximately  $849.

After an ugly public brawl erupted over January’s iPhone 4S launch in Beijing, Apple is now using a reservations system to thwart scalpers.

Research firm Canalys reported similar findings last month as local brands like Yulong Computer Telecommunication Scientific pushed Apple out of the top 5 list.

No wonder, knowing Yulong’s Coolpad phone sells below $100.

The researchers expect Apple to grab more of the market now that the iPhone 5 has hit the country.

What’s your opinion?

Can the iPhone 5 save Apple’s grace in China?