The iPhone 5 reached China on Friday 14 December, three months after its release in the West. Initial reports suggested take-up for the devices was low, causing Apple shares to drop 3.9 per cent, but according to Apple CEO Tim Cook: “Customer response has been incredible, setting a new record with the best first weekend sales ever in China.”
Sales were controlled using an online lottery system, in order to prevent the riots and touting at the iPhone 4S launch in January, which led to Apple halting sales of the devices.
It's worth noting that the iPhone 5 was available through China Telecom and China Unicorn, but not the state-owned China Mobile, the country's biggest operator, with whom Apple has never managed to strike a deal.
“China is a very important market for us,” said Cook, in Apple's statement announcing the sales milestone. Given the size of the market, and how fast it's growing, that's not difficult to believe.
According to Flurry, the number of active Android and iOS devices in the country hit 167m in October, nearly triple what it was a year earlier. China is forecast to become the world's largest smartphone market in Q1, 2013, overtaking the US, and it's currently Apple's second biggest market – but that's more down to the sheer size of the country itself than the company's own successes.
Apple holds less than 10 per cent share of the smartphone market. In recent research from IDC, it was pushed out of the top five manufacturers entirely. The top five is now made up entirely of Asian companies – with Samsung taking the top spot – which mostly produce Android-powered phones.