Hong Kong and China among first batch of markets targeted by Apple’s new iPhone SE

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 March, 2016, 8:39am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 March, 2016, 2:17pm

The launch of a new, smaller-screen Apple smartphone is expected to bridge the gap until the technology giant launches its much-anticipated iPhone 7 in the second half of this year, experts say.

Hong Kong and mainland China are among the initial batch of 12 markets where the new iPhone SE, built with a four-inch display, will be released on March 31, Apple announced on Monday in the United States.

“We will probably see demand for a smaller-screen iPhone come from subscribers in Hong Kong who are still using the older iPhone 4 and iPhone 5 models, as well those who don’t want the bigger-display iPhones,” Stephen Chau Kam-kun, the acting chief executive at mobile network operator SmarTone Telecommunications, told the South China Morning Post.

Chau said he was not certain on how much of an impact the latest iPhone model will have in the local market as many consumers are looking forward to the launch of the iPhone 7 later this year.

He added that the iPhone has remained the most popular smartphone in the city, despite strong competition from various Android-based mobile phone models over the past several years.

Research firm eMarketer has estimated that 69.8 per cent of the 7.2 million population of Hong Kong this year will use smartphones.

Data from regulator the Office of the Communications Authority showed that the number of post-paid and pre-paid 3G and 4G customers in the city reached 14.11 million at the end of December last year.

While most people across Hong Kong were fast asleep early on Tuesday, Apple chief executive Tim Cook roused a global audience online, as well as a contingent of media and analysts at Apple’s headquarters in California, by unveiling the widely speculated iPhone SE model, a new iPad Pro with a 9.7-inch display and the latest accessories for the Apple Watch.

The iPhone SE has the same four-inch display size as the previous iPhone 5 and 5s models. The original iPhone as well as the iPhone 4, 3GS and 3G models all had a 3.5-inch screen.

In September 2014, Apple started its own line of large-display smartphones to compete with the so-called phablets and other big-screen models from Android device makers. The iPhone 6 featured a 4.7-inch screen, while the iPhone 6 Plus had a 5.5-inch display.

Greg Joswiak, the vice-president of product marketing at Apple, said there was still demand for smaller smartphones. At the iPhone SE launch, Joswiak said Apple sold “over 30 million four-inch iPhones last year”.

The iPhone SE is powered by the same 64-bit A9 processor, introduced in the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus models released last year, which provides gains in energy efficiency for improved battery life.

According to Apple, the iPhone SE also features a 12-megapixel back camera, support for so-called 4K video and Touch ID, as well as faster Wi-fi and 4G connections.

The new small-screen model will be available in gray, silver, gold and rose gold metallic covers in 16-gigabyte and 64GB capacities. Prices start at US$399.

Bryan Ma, vice-president of client devices research at IDC, said Apple may have learned a lesson from its experiment with the iPhone 5C model since it is marketing “a competitive, high-spec smartphone”.

Ma pointed out that the iPhone 5C, which was introduced in 2013 also had high technical specifications, “but was perceived as a cheaper product”.

Neil Mawston, the executive director for global wireless practice at technology consultancy Strategy Analytics, predicted the iPhone SE to “help Apple grow slightly this year, and bridge the gap until the iPhone 7 launch”.

“The iPhone SE will certainly help Apple penetrate deeper into emerging markets, like India, China and Indonesia,” Mawston said.