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Apple

China’s micro lenders could help make iPhone X the people’s phone

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 September, 2017, 9:03pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 September, 2017, 11:07pm

Fresh college graduates and young professionals in the mainland may be the demographic group overlooked by Apple to help turn around its fortunes in the country, even as their average monthly incomes are well short of what’s needed to purchase the newly released iPhone X.

Thanks to the boom in financial technology, tech-savvy young Chinese are inclined to buy pricey new iPhones via online loans.

Statistics from fenqile.com, one of Apple’s largest authorised resellers in China, saw a surge in registrations early Wednesday after it launched a programme to allow consumers with good online credit to buy iPhones on monthly instalments of as low as 540 yuan (US$82.7) for 12 months.

The programme was unveiled hours after Apple chief executive Tim Cook unveiled several new iPhone models at the company’s headquarters in Cupertino, California.

“Paying in instalments has become a phenomenon among internet users in China, allowing iPhones to become more affordable, particular for young consumers who have a taste for trendy, high quality products,” said Darcy Fang Liu, vice president of Lexin Fintech Holdings, the Shenzhen-based parent company of fenqile.

He added that its target users are young professionals with high income potential.

Apple launches ‘the future of the smartphone’ in new flagship iPhone X

Apple needs a fillip to help turnaround its fortunes in China where its smartphone market share slipped to fifth during the second quarter, trailing local rivals Huawei Technologies, Oppo, Vivo and Xiaomi.

There have been concerns that Apple’s iPhone pricing may scare away consumers in a country where fresh college graduates earn an average 4,014 yuan (US$614.5) a month.

But the rise of financial technologies in China may help Apple reach new consumers.

Sales of iPhones on fenqile via instalments grew 12 per cent in the second quarter on year. During the same time, overall iPhone sales in China dropped 14 per cent on year, according to market research firm Canalys.

Apart from fenqile, online finance services backed by Alibaba Group and its biggest rival JD.com, also launched flexible payment programmes following the latest iPhone announcement by Apple.

The programmes will enable consumers with good online credit histories to buy iPhones even if they don’t own credit cards issued by banks.

“Such instalment programmes can certainly help Apple expand its reach some new consumers, but they may not be able to significantly boost Apple’s overall sales in China,” said Jin Di, research manager of IDC China, adding most new iPhone sales are expected to come from existing consumers.