Beijing launch of new iPhones leaves critics cold

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 September, 2013, 10:43am

Apple's first launch party in China for its iPhones went down badly with mainland media and consumers, who were disappointed at the steep price tag and poor arrangements for the event.

Yet the Beijing launch yesterday was intended to underscore the importance of the Chinese market for Apple, which CEO Tim Cook had earlier said provided huge opportunities.

The technology giant unveiled two models - the 5S and its plastic-backed "budget" 5C. But instead of a live presentation, local media could only see lengthy video footage of the launch hours earlier in California, which many had seen online already.

Video:Beijing Apple iPhone 5s & iPhone 5c Launch

"Apple has indeed done something remarkable - they have managed to piss off every media outlet in China," a mainland technology reviewer said.

The biggest complaints came from consumers who had been expecting Apple to release a "cheap" model aimed at cracking the Chinese market.

Instead, the cheapest 5S is priced at 5,288 yuan (HK$6,654) while the 5C is 4,488 yuan, much more expensive than similar products offered by other brands. In the United States, the 5C will sell for almost US$200 less.

"My original estimate of the 5C price was around 3,000 yuan, but more than 4,000 I think for a budget version the price may be a little expensive. I don't think I can buy one," said Liu Donghai, a 25-year-old chemical engineer.

"If the 5S is around 5,000, then it's similar to the already-released 5 and 4S. I would accept this."

A disgruntled internet user posted a message saying: "I feel cheated. Isn't the letter C in 5C supposed to stand for 'cheap'? Now it is not cheap at all."

Typing "iPhone" in the search box of Weibo - the mainland equivalent of Twitter - threw up hundreds of similar comments.

Once seen as a "must-have" item by many of the mainland's emerging middle-class, the iPhone has lost its halo as it faces tough competition from Samsung and domestic brands.

Xiaomi, a small but aggressive domestic producer of smartphones, launched a baseline model for around 800 yuan last week. It has specifications on a par with the iPhone and other sophisticated handsets, such as a quad-core processor and vivid high-resolution display, and has received glowing reviews.

China accounted for 13 per cent of Apple's iPhone sales in April to June - down from nearly 19 per cent in the previous quarter.


Cost Comparison

Apple iPhone 5s (16GB) 5,288 yuan

Apple iPhone 5C (16GB) 4,488 yuan

Samsung Galaxy S4 (16GB) 3,530 yuan

Xiaomi Hongmi (4G) 799 yuan