China US Apple

Chinese state-owned media has slammed Apple's iPhone as a national security risk due to the smartphone's location-tracking capabilities. (The Associated Press)

China's state media is branding Apple's iPhone as a threat to national security, citing the smartphone's ability to track and time-stamp user locations.

The report by broadcaster CCTV criticized the iPhone's "Frequent Locations" function for allowing users to be tracked and information about them revealed.

"This is extremely sensitive data," said a researcher interviewed by the broadcaster. If the data were accessed, it could reveal an entire country's economic situation and "even state secrets," the researcher said.

Apple has frequently come under fire from Chinese state media, which accused the company of providing user data to U.S. intelligence agencies. It has also been criticized for poor customer service.

Trying to expand into China

This backlash may hurt the California-based company's efforts to expand in China.

The Chinese market for smartphones is by far the largest in the world, with over 700 million users, according to analytics firm Umeng. Right now, Apple has just 6 per cent of that market according to research firm Analysys.

In December, Apple inked a deal with China Mobile, the largest phone company in the world, to help expand its reach into the Chinese market.

Other U.S. firms have also felt a chill in China.

Google services have been disrupted in China for over a month, while the central government procurement office has banned new government computers from using Microsoft Corp's Windows 8 operating system.

Analysts and companies have termed this the 'Snowden Effect', after U.S. spying revelations released last year by former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. IBM and Cisco Systems have also been affected.

Earlier this week, U.S. secretary of state John Kerry was in Beijing and had what he called "frank talks" with Chinese officials over back-and-forth allegations of cyber espionage.

with files from Reuters