IDC‘s latest figures for China’s mobile market are out and the research firm has revealed that smartphone shipments outnumbered that of feature phones for the first time, according to data captured between April and June.

The company reported that 44 million smartphones shipped during the period, that’s 51 percent of the total number of devices that IDC estimates were shipped during the period. That finding corroborating similar reports from China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), which also noted smartphones had outnumbered feature phones for the first time.

The IDC figures, reported by Reuters, show that shipments of Apple devices dropped by one half (to account for a 10 percent industry-wide share) during the quarter, but that lull is largely unsurprisingly given that consumers are holding off as the firm is expected to unveil its latest smartphone next month.

What is significant, however, is the rise of alternative options for Chinese smartphone users, which IDC analyst TZ Wong noted.

“One [factor for Apple's lower figures] is seasonal, people know the new phone is coming. And the second is that the alternatives are becoming much more attractive than a year ago. The iPhone didn’t change much over the year.”

Lenovo led that charge, growing its share to 11 percent and taking the second spot from Apple. “Lenovo had huge Q2 due to increased volumes through operator and continued push into retail, leveraging on its PC retail stores and partnerships,” Wong told TNW.

Apple’s arch rival, Samsung, remained the most shipped smartphone maker in China with 19 percent share – showing no change on the previous quarter. Apple, in fact, dropped down to fourth, slipping behind local telecom powerhouse ZTE, while fellow Chinese firm Huawei completed IDC’s top five, despite IDC noting a “slight decrease” for the latter’s shipments.

Analyst firm Canalys recently predicted that 40 percent of all smartphones in China will cost less than $200 by 2015, and ‘affordable smartphones’ based on the likes of Baidu’s Cloud OS, Alibaba’s Aliyun OS and other Chinese firms are seen as key to increasing mass market smartphone adoption and offering competition to Apple and others.

Despite the drop, China remains key to Apple, and the technology giant showed that slowing shipments haven’t overly affected sales after it posted Q2 revenues of $5.7 billion from the country.

Its iPad 2 tablet made a quiet entry to the country in July, but the upcoming iPhone is likely to generate considerably more attention. That said, China-based Apple fans are likely to have a wait on their hands as the company has traditionally launched devices in China some time after they are made available in the US and other ‘priority’ markets.

China’s smartphone market overtook the US at the end of 2011, according to Strategy Analytics, while app analytics firm Flurry found that China registers more new Android and iOS devices than any other country worldwide.

Image via Flickr / Robert S. Donovan