back to article Chinese buyers falling out of love with iPhones

Google famously failed to make a big dent in China and now it looks like Apple may be about to hit the Great Wall too, after new analysis of local sentiment found the fruity company out of favour with local consumers. The source of that analysis is Taiwan’s TRENDforce which teamed with Chinese outfit AVANTI Research Partners …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yes, but

    how do we interpret the image of the globe being held by a young child? I can't find a reference to it anywhere in the article.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      The average Chinese worker can't afford the iPhone without selling a kidney, instead it is the phone of choice for the rich elite, there are not that many of them, hence local and cheaper phones sell more.

      1. Dazed and Confused

        Re: Cost

        > The average Chinese worker can't afford the iPhone without selling a kidney,

        While that is no doubt true, there is a bigger reason highlighted in the article.

        > the fact its handsets won’t work with dominant local carriers.

        Might also be a deciding factor.

        There is only so much posing you can do, like the people you used to often see talking on their phone on the Underground in London, back when mobiles were " for the rich elite" here, rather than things you buy to give to the kids to chuck into the bottom of their school bag in case they can't get on the bus.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Cost

        The Samsung Galaxy is not much better - perhaps they would only have to sell 2/3rds of a kidney?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Cost

          "perhaps they would only have to sell 2/3rds of a kidney?"

          Don't be silly. There's probably a lot of body parts that are singly worth the right amount, but available as pairs so the donor isn't harmed by donating a whole one - a buttock, for example.

      3. Long Fei

        Re: Cost

        There may be many millions who can't afford one, but there are also many millions who can easily afford them. There are a lot more rich Chinese than people think.

        I've been seeing a lot of iPhones recently, but they seem to be non-5 models (bit hard to tell with these small Apple phones sometimes). I've also been seeing lots of Galaxy Notes, though not so many S3s. Of course, that could be because the Note's are easier to spot. There do seem to be a fair number of HTC Ones too.

        Then again, most locals here seem to have generic looking brands I can't readily identify.

        As far as pads go, most non-subway pads I see are big iPads (rather than the new one), but on the subway the smaller Chinese ones are most visible. Though with the crush underground that's possibly not surprising either.

  2. J. R. Hartley

    Apple can fool some people sometimes

    But they can't fool all the people all the time.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    They're targeting the Chinese market heavily as they reckon its where the next stage of mobile phone evolution/innovation will take place. With Apple apparently falling out of favour, maybe they're right and its the ideal time for a new, fresh, and truly open upstart to take to the stage.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A quick look at gets me a parked domain and a "Web Address Blocked". Hmmm.

    1. Eddy Ito

      Well, did you actually spell it Xioami? It's xiaomi so it looks like you swapped the 'ao' for 'oa'. Literally it's "little rice". One of their phones is actually quite impressive with a quad core Qualcomm Krait at 1.5 GHz, 4.3" 1280 x 720 display and Miui Android 4.1 going for around $320 or £200. Oh the standard battery is 2000 mAh with an available 3100 mAh battery. I'm actually thinking of ordering one if it's unlocked and will work in the US if Santa doesn't deliver.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Ah, thank you. I copied & pasted from the article, but it's been edited since.

  5. Eddy Ito

    It's a combination of things

    Nokia's problem is that they pretty much dropped the ball and shuffled their feet for a year as Elop burned the bridges behind them and it will take a fair amount to get back in the game but I have a feeling they are pricing themselves out of the mass market in China. It's Nokia not Apple.

    "The research says Apple is struggling in China due to a combination of price and the fact its handsets won’t work with dominant local carriers."

    Sure, Apple has mostly shot themselves in the foot by not ponying up a few quid for whatever is needed to ship a compatible TD-SCDMA or some such radio in the Chinese market. As a result word is getting out that even after several revisions it's still only a half hearted attempt and I imagine sentiment is that Apple doesn't see China as a growth area, perhaps because the average punter isn't wealthy enough.

    They could get a short term boost by making the 5S, 6 or whatever the next model is compatible in the same way as they got a boost by ending the exclusive agreement with @&T in the US but it would only be short term as competitors aren't standing still and delivering equal or currently better utility. End game, iPhone is rapidly approaching maximum saturation globally and they have to seriously up their game, change direction and force the market to pivot in response.

    That said, they can certainly milk their current market for quite a while before they really need a big break so perhaps a mid-2014 iFantastic that breaks the mold is in the works. But, dozens of others already have geared up plenty of Apple peeler skunkwork projects as well.

  6. Neoc

    How many?

    "...saw 200,00 phones..."

    Is that 20,000 or 200,000 phones? I'm pretty certain it's not 200.00 phones.

    1. Mark .

      Re: How many?

      Possibly due to this - - in China, the comma can be used for groups of 2 digits. So I suspect it's 20,000 - though it's a bit sloppy of the Register to not use the UK style, since this isn't a quotation.

  7. Steve Todd

    iPhone 5 still isn't released in China

    What the numbers look like after it is (supposedly in December) will be more interesting.

    1. Mark .

      Re: iPhone 5 still isn't released in China

      Ah yes, standard Apple fan excuse - "but the next one will be more popular!" Sure, and by then all the other companies like Samsung and Nokia will have newer models and improved distribution too.

      1. Grikath

        Re: iPhone 5 still isn't released in China

        I can't see where Steve Todd's remark is a Fanboi excuse... The 5 isn't out in China yet, and it may or may not have an effect on sales/market share. That's an observation and is not an excuse.

        Personally I don't think the 5 would make much of a dent in anything, because seen from a technical and practical point of view it's just middlin' in the top end of offerings, and chinese manufacturers are catching up *fast* so it will be sliding down as an attractive proposition *as a phone* week by week.

        Which leaves the Status Symbol aspect of iFruit gear, and that is where you hit the fact that in China there's a realisation that they *can* produce their own, and it's increasingly more common ( and politically sound) to be seen Supporting Your Own to show World + Dog that China has it's own Icons, and does not need Foreign Stuff.

    2. Long Fei

      Re: iPhone 5 still isn't released in China

      But it's very easy to buy one non the less. I'd say a fairly high percentage of these phones are the semi-legal imports from HK,

  8. Piro Silver badge

    I don't blame them

    Have you seen the price/specs of the Xiaomi phones?

    They're the high end there, to be sure, but there are plenty of cheaper devices which suffice.

    Easy rooting and so on only add to the attraction.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Are the Chinese exceptionally patriottic ?

    I am wondering if our Chinese friends are favouring their own brands. Maybe they are just finding their own products have come along far enough to be acceptable as alternatives to products sold by foreign companies.

    1. Mark .

      Re: Are the Chinese exceptionally patriottic ?

      Even without being "patriotic", companies tend to do better in their own markets - e.g., the US is Apple's best market, and S Korea is Samsung's best market. Nokia's Symbian was the number one worldwide platform until 2011, but virtually unheard of in the US (which perhaps partly contributes to the ridiculous "Apple invented 'smart' phones in 2007 [even though the 1st iphone wasn't a smartphone]" from the US media, though there's no excuse for the UK media).

      There are factors such as language of the documentation; distribution - whether you can buy it at all, and whether it's available on networks with contracts, which is how most people buy phones; brand awareness (people tend to be more wary of brands that they don't know); and simply being aware of the product in the first place.

      E.g., one of my friends was asking about whether Symbian phones still exist to buy - they still today sell around 4 million a quarter (i.e., still better than Apple managed back in 2007!), but it'd be hard if not impossible to get one in the UK on a contract.

      Or I'd love to have one of the Android tablets from Chinese company Ainol, which have excellent specs at low prices, but the only way seems to be to mail order from a company that ships from China, and hope I don't get a load of Chinese instructions or power supply. And most people won't even be aware these devices exist, with the media only covering the tablets from Google, Amazon and Apple Apple Apple (even Samsung get little coverage).

      Though this is one of the many strengths of Android - it will do well worldwide, as even though different companies are successful in different countries, they will all use the common platform of Android. With IOS, you're stuck with Apple, who will struggle to have a worldwide presence.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Are the Chinese exceptionally patriottic ?

        "I'd love to have one of the Android tablets from Chinese company Ainol, which have excellent specs at low prices"

        They'll need to be excellent and very cheap indeed if they want to sell under that name in anglophone markets.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Are the Chinese exceptionally patriottic ?

        What you say is of couse true, but it is easy to prefer Apple in the US or Sammy in SK because they make really good products. There's a lot to like.

        What I'm wondering about is if the Chinese are preferring an 'inferior' (I can't seem to be able to come up with a better word for now) product. 'It may not be an iPhone or a Galaxy, but WE made it and OUR families make their living from it'. That kind of thing.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If you're an English speaker you will get a phone make by a company that speaks English. It means the phone will be designed for you and will be optimised for you.

    Same goes for the Chinese.

    German, French and Spanish are all fairly similar in alphabet, with a few extra symbols, but Mandarin etc are quite different. So the GUI has to take this into account.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "If you're an English speaker you will get a phone make by a company that speaks English"

      Ahh, that'll be why my phone is made by South Koreans, and has an operating system devised by Merkins wot can't spell.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "The average Chinese worker can't afford the iPhone without selling a kidney, instead it is the phone of choice for the rich elite, there are not that many of them, hence local and cheaper phones sell more."

    There are 1.3 billion people in China, just 5% of them is the population of UK alone..

    What numbers of them who are considered middle class by our standards probably exeeds what we have here.. who easily can afford Iphones..

    Have you noticed all the chinese students and chinese tourists in UK ?? have you seen the tourists in designers shops buying the whole set of outfits, whilst most of us buy single pieces here and there.. How much do you think it costs for foreign students to study in UK ?.

    But you are right that if you average them over the whole population, the average pay is not enough to easiy afford an IPhone.

    As a side note, there are around 300million unemployed farm labourers in China, that number is the population of USA..

    In regards to whether they are patriotic about their phone purchases, i donlt thin so, even the figures suggest otherwise. Apart from certain compability issues, I just think they don't tlike the closed control apple has etc..

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There are several reasons why Apple's market share is dropping there

    1) smartphone market is growing fast, but now mostly via replacing cheap feature phones with cheap smartphones. Most of the people with the money to afford an expensive phone like an iPhone or Samsung GS3 have already bought one. Once again this is an effect of people being dumb and talking about "smartphone market share" instead of "mobile market share". In that, Apple will see continued growth, as would high end Android phones. It's just that that growth will be dwarfed by the growth of super cheap Android phones costing well under $100.

    2) iPhone isn't available on China's largest carrier, meaning about 70% of the population can't buy it from their carrier. They can work on the network, but at 2G speeds only.

    3) iPhone 5 isn't even (officially) sold in China yet. Other than people buying off the black market, people who want an iPhone are probably waiting until next month when the 5 goes on sale (and the 4 & 4S see an accompanying price drop) This is just like the big drop in iPhone market share in the US prior to its release, and then the big jump after iPhone 5 intro that saw Apple beating all Android phones combined in the US by a couple percent in the Aug/Sep/Oct quarter.

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