Apple's new iPhone 6s, 6s Plus could further boost 4G network adoption in China as buyers are 'immune to economic conditions'
Apple, the third-largest smartphone supplier in mainland China, expects to continue supporting the growth of 4G network users in the country with the impending release of its latest iPhone models there on September 25.
At the company’s new product launch on Wednesday in San Francisco, Apple chief executive Tim Cook said it has been a phenomenal year so far for the iPhone as its second-quarter sales in mainland China, the world's largest smartphone market, “grew a stunning 75 per cent versus the rest of the industry in decline’’.
Mainland China, Hong Kong and 10 other countries will be the first markets where the new iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus will be made available by Apple later this month. Pre-orders start on Saturday.
A report by technology research firm IDC on Thursday said the negative economic situation in China will not have a direct impact on sales of the new iPhone models because of the kinds of consumers who want these devices.
“These groups are immune to economic conditions,” IDC senior market analyst Tay Xiaohan said. The analyst said these buyers are also not keen on switching to the Android mobile platform even though Chinese brands, such as Xiaomi and Huawei Technologies, are selling more premium models.
Bernstein Research senior analyst Chris Lane told the South China Morning Post that the new iPhone models could prove an upside for China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom in terms of enticing more 3G subscribers to upgrade to 4G.
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While mainland China’s big-three telecommunications network operators do not separately report their iPhone sales, Lane said the release of the bigger-sized iPhone 6 and 6 Plus contributed to increased 4G users in the country.
“Those iPhones were released just as China Mobile was completing the urban build-out of its 4G network,” Lane said. “We know China Mobile captured more than 90 per cent of 4G subscribers in the country last year.”
Bernstein estimated that China Mobile, which had 818.8 million total cellular subscribers as of July 31, could have around 300 million 4G users by the end of this year, up from 90 million last December 31.
Apple also introduced at the event in the United States its biggest tablet model, the iPad Pro, to be released in November.
Targeted at enterprise users, the iPad Pro has a 12.9-inch high-definition display, a smart keyboard and stylus as accessories, and deeper integration with Microsoft’s Office productivity software.
The company has teamed up with French luxury fashion house Hermes for a new collection of Apple Watch in stainless steel with finely crafted leather bands. This line will be available in mainland China, Hong Kong and 12 other countries from October 5.
An updated Apple TV set-top box will be available at the end of October. It runs on the company’s new tvOS operating platform, which was designed to help developers create apps for the device. It comes with a remote control featuring voice-command system Siri to search for content.
“Overall, this is an evolutionary suite of products,” said Neil Mawston, the executive director at research firm Strategy Analytics.
“Apple has, once again, done just enough, to ensure that it stays in front of, or in touch with its major rivals.”
Growing demand for the iPhone, a business that made up 59 per cent of Apple’s total revenue in the quarter ended June 30, remains the top priority for the company.
“We are driven to innovate at Apple,” Cook said. “And no product is more about innovation than the iPhone.”
“While they may look familiar, we have changed everything about these new iPhones,” Cook said, noting the similar design of the latest models with the highly successful iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.
The new models are each built with a 12-megapixel back camera and 5MP front camera, new high-definition 4K video recording feature, a faster microprocessor, support for up to 23 4G frequency bands, faster-responding Touch ID button, and a casing made of so-called 7000-series aluminium, the same alloy used in the aerospace industry.
The updated operating system, iOS 9, provides more security enhancements. A new hardware colour, rose gold, is added to the current selection of gold, silver and grey.
More importantly, the new models introduce “3D Touch”. A user can press lightly to peek at a photo, e-mail, Web page or other content, and press a little harder to pop into the content itself. This feature also provides shortcuts for sending a message or taking a selfie with just a simple press from the home screen.
“This gives users more choice for usability,” said Strategy Analytics’ Mawston.
The “Live Photos” feature goes beyond snapshots. Users are able to capture moments immediately before and after a shot was taken. When the still photo is pressed on screen, it also reveals the captured movement and sound.
“All of these features add to the lure and functionality of the iPhone, and I believe it help Apple extend its market position in the China in the new year,” said Tim Bajarin, president at US technology researcher and consultancy Creative Strategies.