China is a country that’s going to be increasingly important to Apple. For instance, according to recent report by the Distimo app store research group (,t he download volume in Asian countries grew significantly in the past six months in the Apple App Store for iPhone.

While other (Western) countries saw a decrease in download volume during the same time frame. China recently became the second largest market after the United States. And let’s not forget the Mac.

The Mac has over 10% market share in the U.S., but under 5% globally (though both those figures would skyrocket if you figured in iPad sales, as I think you should). I think that number will grow at a significant rate, especially with China figured into the equation.

Last year Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty said in a report co-written with Mathew Schneider, that “China is undergoing a ‘megatransition’ from being the leading producer of goods to the leading consumer of them” and that there’s “evidence of strong uptake of Apple products among higher-income China consumers.”

If their numbers are right, Huberty says Apple then would have to grow revenue by just 19% and operating income by 11% in the rest of the world to hit the current consensus two-year EPS [earnings per share] growth forecast of 21% (and our 22%).”

The report also says that Apple’s brand is already preferred by urban Chinese. A November 200 Morgan Stanley survey of Chinese handset users in tier 1/2 cities suggests Apple already has greater mindshare among higher-income China consumers than in the US. This population is 3x as likely to own a Mac, 1.7x as likely to own an iPod, and 1.8x as likely to own an iPhone.

Since Apple recently launched an online store in China and has some serious retail expansion plans for the country, you can bet they aren’t ignoring those figures.

Meanwhile, the Distimo study also showed:

° The download volume in South Korea is remarkably high despite the relative small size of the country’s population. Moreover, because the Games category is absent in the Apple App Store for iPhone in South Korea, all downloads are allocated to non-Games, while in other countries the Games category is without exception, the largest. This makes South Korea an especially interesting country for publishers and developers in the non-Games categories.

° The download volumes in Asia increased in general, however, the proportion of paid downloads and the overall revenue still lag behind that of the United States and Europe. Moreover, while in-app purchases became an important monetization method over the last year in many countries, it has not yet in Asia. Thus, developers have to look for other ways of monetization such as advertising.

° A comparison of the most popular categories between the United States and Asia revealed that there are no significant differences between content preferences. Hence, iPhone developers could offer the same type of applications in both Asia and the United States.

° The majority of the most popular iPhone applications in Asia is only popular in Asia, but in some Asian countries worldwide popular applications prevail. Examples of regional popular only content are KungFu Food-Panda, and Birzzle. In general, localization appears to be key to becoming popular especially when considering countries like China, South Korea, and Japan. In countries like India and Indonesia, localization appears to be less important.

— Dennis Sellers