With less than a week to go before Apple releases its iPhone 4S across mainland China, local smartphone makers are steeling themselves for battle.
With China now being Apple's second-largest market -- after the United States -- with sales to the financial year ending last September accounting for some US$13 billion (10 billion euros), it's been a long wait for the country's gadget-savvy masses as Apple started rolling out the release of the device since last October.
The iPhone 4S came to nearby Hong Kong in November and Taiwan in December and many mainland consumers have been making the short trips to those destinations to get in first, but from Friday they'll be able to secure themselves a 64-gigabyte iPhone 4S for 6,788 yuan (842 euros) or a 32GB version for 5,888 (718 euros) a little closer to home.
Apple estimates that the combined markets of China, Macau and Taiwan account for an impressive 12 percent of global revenue -- a figure that now amounts to US$108 billion (84.5 billion euros).
So the company is expecting big things from its latest smartphone in China -- which became the largest market in the world by volume in November last year with 24 million units shifted for the year's third quarters. But there are other brands hoping the Americans won't have everything their own way.
Apple currently has the third-largest share of the Chinese smartphone market -- behind Nokia and Samsung -- but the local brands are fast gaining ground.
With models costing less than 1,000 yuan (124 euros), Chinese brands such as Huawei Technologies, ZTE. TCL and Yulong Coolpad are expected to almost double in 2012.
If that dream comes true -- and it comes from the research company IHS iSuppli China -- it would mean those companies combined would shift more than one million units for the year.
And it's cheaper prices that are driving that growth IHS iSuppli China's director Kevin Wang, told the South China Morning Post newspaper.