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China Passes U.S. in Android, Apple Smart-Device Activations

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March 21 (Bloomberg) -- China, the most-populous country, passed the U.S. in February in new activations of Apple Inc. and Android smartphones and tablets, according to Flurry Inc., a maker of software for tracking use of mobile applications.

In the month, 23 percent of activations of mobile devices based on Apple’s iOS or Google Inc.’s Android software occurred in China, compared with 22 percent in the U.S., Flurry said today in a report. As recently as January 2011, China accounted for 8 percent of the world’s activations, while the U.S. led with 28 percent.

China’s large population and emerging middle class make it an increasingly important market for makers of hardware and software. To help widen its beachhead there, Cupertino, California-based Apple is striking deals with Chinese companies, such as China Telecom Corp.

“With China now activating more devices per month than the U.S., this means that the gap is closing between the two countries in terms of installed base,” Flurry said in the report. “Not only is China already the second largest app economy, but also could eventually overtake the U.S. as the country with the largest installed base of smart device users.”

Currently, the U.S. has twice as many active smart devices. This month, China will account for an estimated 24 percent of device activations, compared with 21 percent for the U.S., Flurry said.

Prosperity Grows

Increasing prosperity of Chinese consumers is the main driver behind growth in smartphones and other devices. China’s middle class is expanding, and wealthier consumers are buying everything from smartphones to designer purses. This decade, China is expected to overtake Japan as the world’s largest luxury-goods market, according to McKinsey & Co., a consulting company.

Flurry tracks activations through its analytics software, which tracks application downloads.

China is already the fastest-growing country in the number of times its users launch mobile apps -- a metric that helps predict interest in mobile technology. In the 12 months through March, such app sessions in China grew 12-fold, Flurry said in the report.

In that period, sessions more than doubled in the U.S., Peter Farago, vice president of marketing at San Francisco-based Flurry, said in an interview.

To contact the reporter on this story: Olga Kharif in Portland, Oregon, at okharif@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Thomas Giles at tgiles5@bloomberg.net