The Chinese government has confirmed that the country now has more than 1 billion mobile phone users, after revealing that the first quarter of the year saw an additional 43 million devices added.

As Tech In Asia reveals – citing a Chinese language report from Sina Tech — the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) has announced that number of active devices in the country has reached 1,030,052,000, thanks to new activations in the first quarter of 2012.

While the bulk of those mobile devices are feature phones, China’s smartphone market has risen to become the world’s largest, based on both shipment volumes and device activations.

Smartphone ownership is growing rapidly, thanks to a surge in sales of Android-based phones — which accounted for 68 percent of smartphone sales at the end of 2011, Analysys says — and it’s clear that there is plenty of scope for app-centric devices to hold a more sizeable share of China’s total mobile market.

Apple is also posting strong growth in China, with a recent report claiming that its market share more than doubled to hit 16 percent. Microsoft, NokiaIntel and a series of others are also sweet on the Chinese opportunity and have launched, or are launching there.

The Western powers are being challenged by a number of Chinese firms that are focused on providing quality but affordable mid- and low-end devices.

Two of those include Xiaomi, which is already seeing strong demand for its $320 smartphone, and search giant Baidu, which recently unveiled Baidu Cloud platform. A cloud-centric ‘fork’ of Android’s mobile operating system, the company says Baidu Cloud will help manufacturers develop sub-$150 handsets, the first of which will be the Foxconn-made Changhong H5018.

If you’re looking for comparison, the country was revealed to have passed 500 million Internet users back in January.