Can Apple Conquer China’s Smartphone Market in 2014?

Source: (screenshot of WWDC video stream)

As growth in mature smartphone markets like North America and Europe begins to slow, smartphone makers are increasingly shifting their focus to emerging markets such as China. As recently noted by Strategy Analytics executive director Neil Mawston, China is expected to surpass North America as the world’s largest mobile phone market by revenue this year. Like many other smartphone makers, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) — which reported an all-time quarterly revenue record of almost $10 billion in Greater China during the March quarter — is also intensifying its efforts to win more users in China.

The iPhone maker recently announced several changes to its upcoming iOS 8 mobile operating system that are aimed specifically at the Chinese market. As revealed in the opening keynote address of Apple’sWorldwide Developers Conference, iOS 8 includes several new developer tools and overall improvements that make it more user-friendly for the Chinese market. Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, highlighted several of these enhancements during the WWDC keynote, including improvements to maps for the region, lunar calendar support, better Chinese language predictive input, and improved weather data for China.

Apple has also been rolling out better support for Chinese developers behind the scenes, as it seeks to bolster the number of apps available in the China App Store. For example, Apple offered a payment tool in China that links directly to a customer’s bank account, since many Chinese customers don’t use credit cards, reports Bloomberg.

There is still plenty of room for Apple to grow in China. Apple’s China App Store only had approximately 150,000 apps in January, much lower than the 1 million-plus apps available in the U.S. App Store, according to data cited by Bloomberg. However, despite the lower number of available apps, CEO Tim Cook noted during the company’s last quarterly earnings call that iTunes software and services revenue more than doubled in China during the March quarter.