Hot off the press: iPhone 8 handset cases in Shenzhen before Apple’s official sales launch

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 September, 2017, 10:34pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 September, 2017, 3:38pm

Even before Apple Inc lifts the curtains on the next iteration of its iconic handset, vendors in southern China are already touting cases and accessories for the iPhone 8, its larger sibling iPhone 8 Plus, and a possible iPhone X to mark the 10th anniversary of the world’s most successful smartphone.

They come in plastic in shocking red, jet black or electric blue, selling for anything from 10 yuan to 30 yuan (US$4.60) apiece at the Huaqiangbei electronics mall in southern China’s technology hub of Shenzhen.

“Producing iPhone cases is a sure win,” said Li Hong, a saleswoman at one of the mall’s scores of stores. “Suppliers have already shipped the cases to Huaqiangbei, so I can immediately fill out orders after the iPhone’s launch tonight. I didn’t want to keep the accessories too far ahead of the launch as I didn’t want any inventory pressure.”

Apple is scheduled to unveil its new phones Tuesday at the newly completed Apple Park headquarters in Cupertino, California, during the wee hours of Hong Kong time.

The sizes and dimensions of the to-be-released phones have already been known for weeks through leaks on Apple fan sites, bulletin boards, media reports or information provided by the hundreds of Apple component suppliers, many based in China.

Anatomy of an iPhone: What’s in it and where the parts come from

The iPhone 8 is supposed to come with a 4.7-inch liquid crystal display (LCD) touch screen, while the bigger iPhone 8 Plus sports a 5.5-inch LCD screen and the iPhone X will have a 5.8-inch curved screen using organic light-emitting diode (OLED).

Thin-film screen protection plastic shields are also available at Huaqiangbei, guaranteed to fit the screen of the yet-to-be-released iPhone, or so the vendors claim.

“It’s more money for the first with the product,” said Zhao Ziming, a senior analyst at Pintu Tank in Beijing, a firm that conducts research on the internet industry. “Chinese manufacturers can easily know the appearance and size of any new iPhones now. It is more and more difficult for Apple to make the phone production process confidential when its productions scale is expanding.”

Read: Xiaomi launches its ‘iPhone 8 killer’ a day before Apple releases its much-anticipated model

Nowhere is the launch more keenly watched than in China, where the company that arguably invented the smartphone now needs a game-changing product to reverse six quarters of shrinking sales in the world’s largest smartphone market.

Competition is heating up in a market where an estimated 2.33 billion mobile phones, including 650 million smartphones, are in circulation, according to data by the internet Society of China. Chinese brands like Huawei, Oppo, Vivo and Xiaomi have been snatching market share away from Apple, offering cheaper but well-crafted alternatives that run on the Android operating system.

Read: First impressions of US$500 Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 smartphone, Chinese maker’s ‘iPhone 8 killer’

Xiaomi, whose smartphones outsold Apple in China during the second quarter, even stole a march on the iPhone by launching its most expensive model a full 24 hours before the American release.

China’s smartphone shipments fell 3 per cent to 113 million devices in the second quarter, according to data by Canalys.

“Chinese manufactures, some of whom have invested hundreds of thousands, or even millions of yuan, to produce iPhone accessories, have their own ways to get the accurate iPhone data to guarantee their products are able to fit the new products,” Li said.