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Bloomberg quotes a Gartner analyst:

“I don’t expect Apple to replace Samsung any time soon,” Gartner analyst Sandy Shen said in an interview. “China Telecom [story] is the nation’s smallest carrier, so the extent to which they can help Apple is quite limited.”

The 16.8 percentage-point gap in China between Cupertino, California-based Apple and Samsung almost doubled from the third quarter. While Samsung is No. 1 and Apple No. 5 in China, the global story is different: Worldwide, Apple passed its Suwon, South Korea-based competitor to become the biggest smartphone vendor in the fourth quarter, according to Gartner.

When you consider that the iPhone is not yet made for China’s dominant carrier, which holds two-thirds of a BILLION customers, the news that Samsung is gaining market share on Apple is not surprising (15 million iPhones ride on incompatible China Mobile).

I will be surprised, however, if Apple does not close the gap next year. The sixth-generation iPhone will almost certainly work on China Mobile’s network.

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