Apple buffeted by competition from Chinese firms
Despite the rumored state-of-the-art technologies of the soon-to-be-released iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, many Chinese consumers polled by the Global Times said they have lost interest in the high-end phones.
Apple will reportedly launch two new phones called iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus along with a new phone named iPhone X, on the 10th anniversary of the launch of the device on Tuesday (US time) in the Steve Jobs Theater.
The starting price of the iPhone X is rumored to be 9 for its 64GB base model, while the prices of the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus are expected to be 9 and 9 respectively, US news site International Business Times reported Monday.
However, more than half of the 30 respondents interviewed randomly by the Global Times said that they do not intend to buy the new phones, mainly due to the high prices, but also because of what they saw as less impressive upgrades and performance.
"The functions of the current iPhone 7 are sufficient. Besides, the new device is too expensive, and the new technologies are not attractive enough," an iPhone user surnamed Ni told the Global Times on Tuesday.
However, Li Yi, a senior research fellow at the Internet Research Center under the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, predicted that sales of the new iPhone models may reach a new high compared with the past three to five years, considering the 10th anniversary and the large user base.
"To commemorate the 10th anniversary of the device, there may be something to wow the consumers. Though no great upgrades have been seen in the past few years, iPhones are still undoubtedly the smartphones that have more reliable performance and the best user experience," Li said.
The Guardian reported on Monday that the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus will see basic upgrades from the previous 7-series and are expected to feature glass back panels, wireless charging and a new micro-processing chip.
Several Chinese tech insiders said at a conference in Beijing on Tuesday that they are excited about the upcoming iPhone 8, which may use facial recognition technology to unlock the phone.
The new technology is also a draw for some buyers. A Beijing white-collar worker who called himself Tamfyi told the Global Times on Tuesday that he will buy the new iPhone 8.
"I would like to see how to operate the phone without the home button and I believe the all-screen design will offer a better user experience. Also, the iPhone's closed operating system and timely software upgrades are superior to Android phones," Tamfyi said.
Apple Pay supports most online shopping but Android phone users have to pay via apps like Alipay or WeChat, he said.
An iPhone fan told the Global Times that she will definitely buy the iPhone 8 when it's available, saying "I want to collect all the versions of iPhone models."
But Fu Liang, a Beijing-based independent analyst in the IT industry, said it's increasingly hard for Apple to achieve the impressive sales figures seen in previous years, with the rise of competitors like Samsung Electronics Co, Huawei Technologies Co and OPPO Electronics Corp.
"Samsung is struggling to recover from last year's Note 7 explosion crisis, but the South Korean electronics giant will definitely make a comeback, which will put heavy pressure on Apple globally," Fu said.
Samsung said on Tuesday that pre-orders for its Galaxy Note 8 premium mobile phones had reached a record high for the Note series, hitting 650,000 units over five days from some 40 countries and regions, Reuters reported.
Besides, domestic manufacturers like Huawei and OPPO have launched smartphones with prices of around 3,500 yuan. Improvement in product features on such models and increasing consumer acceptance of local smartphone manufacturers may also impact Apple's share of the smartphone market, according to Fu.
For the first time ever, Apple saw a year-on-year decline in the Chinese market in 2016, said a report from industry research firm IDC in February.
According to the report, Apple's shipments in the Chinese market registered 44.9 million units last year, down 23.2 percent year-on-year.
With a market share of 9.6 percent, the US giant ranked below local brands OPPO, Huawei and Vivo.