Tim Cook has been outspoken about his belief that China will one day overtake the U.S. in Apple sales, and ahead of Apple’s earnings call tomorrow, analysts are predicting that he’s been proven right.
Analysts at Swiss investment banking firm UBS say that China sold more iPhones than the U.S. in the final three months of 2014. According to their calculations, China claimed 36% of worldwide iPhone shipments during the quarter, compared with 24% in the United States. Last year, the U.S. represented 29% of total iPhone sales during the comparative quarter, with China taking 22%.
A few things would account for this shift. First, Apple signed a deal with China Mobile, the world’s largest mobile carrier, at the very end of 2013—opening the iPhone up to more than 760 million new subscribers. Apple has also embraced the “phablet” form factor, extremely popular in Asia, with its larger 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Finally, Apple has shown itself to be serious about aggressively expanding its brand into China—with plans to more than double its Apple Store presence there by 2016. Recently Apple displaced Samsung in the mobile category as the “most powerful brand” in China’s Brand Power Index.
Apple has not had an easy entry into the country, however. The Chinese media has previously accused the Cupertino, California-based company of using both iCloud and the “Find My iPhone” function on iPhones to spy on its citizens. Apple has also been forced to move iCloud in the country over to state-run servers, and to accept the Chinese government’s demands to screen all Apple products for NSA backdoors before they can be imported into the country.