Ap­ple un­veils its new­est iPhone but the brand is los­ing its shine in China

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By MA SI in Bei­jing masi@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Ap­ple Inc un­veiled its new wa­ter and dust-re­sis­tant iPhone 7 with high-res­o­lu­tion cam­eras at its fall prod­uct event on Wed­nes­day, and said a Super Mario game was com­ing to the new phone and Poke­mon Go would fea­ture on its up­graded Ap­ple Watch.

The ex­cite­ment at the Bill Gra­ham au­di­to­rium in San Fran­cisco was not matched on Wall Street, where Ap­ple’s stock was down 0.3 per­cent. How­ever, Nin­tendo’s US-listed shares jumped more than 20 per­cent to trade around $35 on hopes its games would reach a new au­di­ence.

The world’s best-known tech­nol­ogy com­pany said the iPhone 7 would have one, zoom­ing 12-megapixel cam­era and the ‘Plus’ edi­tion would fea­ture two cam­eras.

It also re­moved the ana­log head­phone jack, as was widely ex­pected. The new head­phones sup­plied by Ap­ple with the phone will plug into the same port as the recharg­ing cord, but it will also work with Ap­ple’s new wire­less head­phones, called Air Pods.

The com­pany typ­i­cally gives its main prod­uct, which ac­counts for more than half of its rev­enue, a big makeover ev­ery other year and the last ma­jor re­design was the iPhone 6 in 2014. The mod­est up­dates sug­gest that this cy­cle will be three years.

Due to the lim­ited im­prove­ments seen in suc­ces­sive iPhone mod­els and a wider range of al­ter­na­tives from do­mes­tic smart­phone mak­ers, Chi­nese con­sumers are less en­thu­si­as­tic about the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus Ap­ple un­veiled Wed­nes­day, ex­perts said.

Sina Weibo, the “Chi­nese Twit­ter”, shows that in the month be­fore this year’s launch, the new iPhone has given rise to one fif­teenth as many com­ments as the iPhone 6 gen­er­ated dur­ing the same pe­riod last year.

This flat­ten­ing en­thu­si­asm is echoed by the lat­est data from China’s big­gest search en­gine Baidu. In July, there were 96.8 mil­lion iPhone-re­lated searches — a 27 per­cent drop from last year’s fig­ure.

James Yan, re­search di­rec­tor at Coun­ter­point Tech­nol­ogy Mar­ket Re­search, said that as Chi­nese firms make ma­jor im­prove­ments on hard­ware, con­sumers are be­com­ing less ea­ger to talk about Ap­ple’s new prod­ucts.

“Smart­phone hard­ware is no longer Ap­ple’s edge, be­cause the mar­ket is now very ma­ture and it is highly dif­fi­cult to come up with in­no­va­tive prod­ucts that can thrill ev­ery­one,” Yan said.

Lo­cal ven­dors such as Huawei Tech­nolo­gies are catch­ing up quickly and even out­do­ing Ap­ple in the hard­ware de­part­ment, he said.

The declining pop­u­lar­ity of iPhones high­lights the chal­lenges Ap­ple is fac­ing in China, which had been one of the firm’s fastest-grow­ing mar­kets but has re­cently been a dis­ap­point­ment. In the quar­ter end­ing in June, Ap­ple saw a 33 per­cent drop in sales in China.

Wang Wanli, a 26-year-old sales man­ager in Bei­jing, said he has been us­ing iPhones for three years and is now con­sid­er­ing whether to buy an iPhone 7 or Moto Z, the lat­est hand­set from Len­ovo, a Chi­nese com­pany.

“I don’t ex­pect a big im­prove­ment in the iPhone 7,” he said, “but I am quite fa­mil­iar with Ap­ple’s oper­at­ing sys­tem. Still, Moto Z is the world’s first mod­u­lar hand­set and sounds very in­ter­est­ing. I want to give it a try.”

Wang is not alone. Of five con­sumers China Daily ran­domly in­ter­viewed on the street on Wed­nes­day, not one of them is ready to buy the new iPhone 7, cit­ing the ex­pen­sive price and lim­ited im­prove­ments as ma­jor con­cerns.

Ni­cole Peng, re­search di­rec­tor at Shang­hai-based con­sul­tancy Canalys, said Ap­ple still dom­i­nates the above-3,000 yuan ($450) hand­set mar­ket, where most con­sumers re­main loyal to the brand.

LIU ZHENG / CHINA DAILY

Jour­nal­ists at­tend­ing Ap­ple’s new prod­uct launch­ing event are in­vited to test the new iPhone 7.

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