With Apple Inc set to unveil its 10th anniversary iPhone on Wednesday, experts say a key question is whether the much-anticipated product can help the U.S. tech giant bolster its business in China, the world's largest smartphone market.
Amid tough competition from local rivals such as Huawei Technologies Co Ltd and Xiaomi Corp, Apple needs to prove it remains an innovative leader, and the latest iPhone will be impressive enough to resonate with local consumers, industry insiders say.
In China, once the biggest growth driver for Apple, the company has seen its revenues slide for several quarters as users switched to domestic phones. In the second quarter of this year, Apple was the fifth-largest smartphone vendor in the country, with a market share of only 8 percent.
Huawei also surpassed Apple as world's second-largest smartphone vendor for the first time in June and July, while Samsung is No 1, data from consultancy Counterpoint Technology Market Research shows.
James Yan, research director at the company, said that to outcompete Chinese players that are constantly experimenting with new technologies, Apple must come up with something "really stunning" for iPhone's 10th anniversary.
Media commentators and Apple fans have expressed high expectations for the new iPhone launch event, set for Steve Jobs Theater at Apple's new Silicon Valley campus.
Reports indicate a premium handset, dubbed iPhone X, will be unveiled. It is likely to include a high-quality screen without an outside frame and an extra camera for 3D facial recognition.
Zhang Wentao, an IT programmer in Shenzhen, said he is not so thrilled about such features. "Chinese smartphone makers are unveiling similar products. Handsets just look increasingly the same. I don't know which one is better until I give them a try," he said.
On Monday, Xiaomi unveiled a smartphone that also has a full-screen display. Huawei has unveiled an artificial-intelligence-powered chipset, with super fast capabilities and a strong image-recognition ability. It will power Huawei's upcoming Mate 10 set to launch in October. Apple is said to be working on a similar chip.
"The annual smartphone battle is coming. But with the 10th anniversary iPhone, it will be far fiercer," said Xiang Ligang, chief executive of telecom industry website Cctime.