China’s Red Hot Phone market is Cooling

After years of blockbuster growth, the world’s biggest smartphone market is cooling.

Smartphone makers shipped 90.8 million units in China in the final three months of 2013, a 4% decline over the previous quarter, according to IDC.

It was the first quarterly decline since early 2011, and a sign that handset makers may have to look beyond the world’s most populous country for growth.

The fall is even more remarkable as the quarter before Lunar New Year is usually strong as Chinese celebrate the holiday by picking up the latest models.

Chinese producers Xiaomi and Huawei performed well in the quarter, as did Apple. The worst of the decline was spread evenly among the rest of the pack.

“Companies have been looking at China like this big black hole that consumed all the phones you threw at it,” said Melissa Chau, a senior research manager at IDC. “But that’s not the case anymore.”

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