China Reacts to the New iPhones

Apple’s annual September launch took place on Sept. 12 this year in California where the much anticipated upgrades to the iPhone X and Apple Watch were announced. With iPhones now priced in the 10,000 yuan range, what are the reactions of Chinese consumers and mobile manufacturers?

Three new iPhones

Launched by Apple CEO Tim Cook at the event were three new iPhones, the iPhone Xs, iPhone Xs Max, and iPhone XR.

iphone xs xs max xr

The iPhone Xs has the same 5.8-inch screen and an identical top notch as the original iPhone X, the only noticeable change in design is the additional offering of a gold edition. Also available in gold is the iPhone Xs Max that sports Apple’s largest display screen to date of 6.5 inches. Both screens use the Super Retina OLED display with 468 ppi.

new iPhones Xs
5.8-inch screen iPhone Xs and 6.5-inch screen iPhone Xs Max

All new iPhone editions use the proprietary Apple A12 Bionic chip and both iPhone Xs and Xs Max are IP68 water-resistant, meaning they can stay 2 meters under water for as long as 30 minutes. The two editions are also available in 512GB of storage, pushing the price tags for the iPhone Xs and iPhone Xs Max from 8,699 yuan and 9,599 yuan for the 64GB versions to 11,899 yuan and 12,799 yuan respectively.

Fortunately, Apple also released the iPhone XR which doesn’t break the bank. Priced from 6,499 yuan to 7,899 yuan for the 64GB and 256GB version, the iPhone XR is available in 6 vibrants colors of white, black, blue, yellow, coral and red. The iPhone XR also has a larger screen than the original iPhone X at 6.1 inches and utilizes Liquid Retina, the “most advanced LCD in the industry” according to Apple.

iPhone XR

The launch of iPhone Xs Max and iPhone XR marks the first time that Apple has offered phones with screens larger than 6 inches, while Android phones have already advanced into the 7-inch category.

Apple with Chinese Characteristics

Apple also finally caught up to Android as the new iPhones now offer dual-SIM support for both iPhone Xs and Xs Max. According to Bloomberg, this is a sign that “Apple is bending to China’s will again” as about 90 percent of smartphones in China already offer a dual-SIM configuration according to data from IDC Mobile Phone Tracker in Q2 2018. Countries such as India and the Philippines, however, both show a higher percentage of dual-SIM smartphones according to the same source, which might indicate that Apple is more than just pleasing the Chinese crowd.

Apple iPhone Xs and Xr Max Dual SIM
iPhone Xs and Xs Max support Dual SIM

What is special for the Chinese market are the physical dual-SIM card slots only available for iPhone Xs Max models sold in China, including in Hong Kong and Macau. The Chinese version of the iPhone Xs will have a single card slot that can house dual nano SIM cards, while all other global editions for both Xs models will only support a physical SIM card and an e-SIM card.

Another upgrade that is popular with the Chinese audience is its NFC function even after the iPhone has turned off due to low battery. All three models will support NFC function up to 5 hours after the phone has turned off using its reserve battery so that its users can take the subway or bus home.

With the release of three iPhone X upgrades, the original iPhone X seems obsolete, despite claims by Cook that the phone remains as the “#1 smartphone in the world” and the “most loved smartphone with 98% customer satisfaction”. This “fan favorite” has already been taken down from Apple’s online stores and discontinued, in spite of its sales record of 60 million devices sold since its release less than a year ago. Other models taken off the official site include iPhone SE and iPhone 6s, last of the iPhone models with headphone jacks.

In addition to its official online store in China, Apple will also be releasing its new products through its online flagship store on Alibaba‘s TMall e-commerce platform. Pre-orders will begin on Sept. 14, one week before the global release date of Sept. 21, another China special likely used to gauge interest from its largest market.

Huawei & Chinese fan reactions on Weibo

Reactions on Weibo, one of the largest Chinese social media platforms, mostly surround the topics of price and the dual-SIM card slots. Many users joked about how their iPhone 4 or iPhone 5s can still last a few years due to the price tag of the new iPhones, while others shared why dual-SIM is the reason they would, or would not be purchasing a newly released iPhone.

One of the most popular reactions to the iPhone product launch is a Weibo post by Yu Chengdong, executive director and CEO of the Huawei Consumer Business Group. Yu posted a short message on the Twitter-like microblogging platform that roughly translates to “No sweat. See you on October 16 in London!” foreshadowing a potential sense of relief and diversion of attention to the upcoming release of the Huawei Mate 20 next month.

Will Apple continue to dominate in the country that shipped half of the world’s smartphones units last year, or will domestic brands like OPPO and vivo continue to lead in the number of units sold?