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China sees rare drop in smartphone shipments as its market matures

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We tend to see China as a hotbed of smartphone growth, but we're going to have to rethink that belief in light of new figures from IDC. The analyst firm estimates that smartphone shipments to the country dropped from 94.8 million in the third quarter of last year to 90.8 million in the fourth -- the first time demand has fallen since mid-2011. Researchers blame the dip on a mix of factors, including the last-minute launch of China Mobile's LTE network (in mid-December), lower device subsidies and customers who opted for tablets instead. However, the analysts primarily believe that the market has matured; phone makers have mostly courted first-time buyers for the past few years, but they now have to justify more upgrades among existing users. IDC is still optimistic that the Chinese market will grow rapidly in 2014, but it's evident that companies can no longer take that relentless pace for granted.

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