What Happened: Despite the lukewarm reception to this year’s Apple iPhone 15 reveal, long queues formed outside several of the tech giant’s stores in Shanghai the past weekend when the device went on sale in China.
Early pre-order data was positive, according to Tianfeng International Securities tech analyst Kuo Ming-chi. He forecasts that sales of the device will boost Apple’s profit and revenue growth in Q4 2023. iPhone 15 Pro Max sales are likely to be strong, though sales of the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro models are likely to miss expectations, says Kuo.
Los Angeles-based investment firm Wedbush Securities estimates that iPhone 15 series pre-orders have surpassed those for last year’s iPhone 14 series by 10 percent to 12 percent.
Meanwhile China’s technology KOLs who tested the phone this week shared negative reviews online, saying that the battery life is disappointingly short.
The Jing Take: When Apple unveiled the iPhone 15 during its 2023 Wanderlust event on September 12, many Chinese netizens didn’t seem impressed at all, with some commenting that the devices lacked innovation and meaningful upgrades. The unveiling of Huawei’s high-end Mate 60 in late August, creates stiff competition for the Apple products in China.
“Transitioning from the Max to the Pro, I genuinely find the Pro’s battery life worrisome, and I regret not getting the Max,” wrote user 6deyipi (6的一匹) on Xiaohongshu.
“To be honest, I’ve not seen such poor battery life on a phone this year. It’s really out of line,” wrote aforementioned user named Bushimaijianguo (不是马建国) on Xiaohongshu.
However, the queues of fans forming on the release day and the pre-orders made online proves that Apple still enjoys strong brand loyalty in China.
Furthermore, Apple increased the price of the popular iPhone Pro Max model, while keeping the prices of the other iPhone 15 models unchanged, which could improve its profit margin. The response in China to the new devices has been mixed.
Despite long queues signaling strong initial demand, Apple is not set for unfettered success just yet. The scalper market, often a barometer of overall market sentiment, was unexpectedly quiet. Some scalpers, for instance, have been observed leaving early on the release day, citing low profit margins.
“This year, the iPhone 15 Pro Max has the best market value,” wrote user Bushimaijianguo (不是马建国) on Xiaohongshu. “Due to supply chain issues, the supply is slow. Generally, you can get it by adding an extra 1000 on the spot. As for colors, the original ones are the hottest, while the blue one is the least desirable. This year, even scalpers are shaking their heads at the blue color.”
In a report released last week, Morgan Stanley warned that it is too early to determine the demand for the iPhone 15 series based on pre-order numbers.
Apple might continue its dominance in the high-end smartphone market, but likely only in the $600 to $800 price range, according to Kuo. With Huawei and other domestic Android manufacturers striving to establish their own high-end products, Apple faces increasing challenges in this sector. Ultimately, its success in China will depend on how it balances innovation and price competitiveness in this rapidly evolving market.