iPhone 6 in three Asian markets Sept 19, but not China

Apple fanboys in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Japan can preorder the latest iPhone from September 12 and receive the smartphone on September 19, when it is available to nine countries in the first wave of its global launch. Surprisingly, China is left out of this initial list.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor

Fanboys in three Asian markets who have been swooning over Apple's new iPhone 6, unveiled during the launch event earlier today, can start drooling September 19 when the smartphone will be available to consumers.

Singapore, Hong Kong, and Japan are part of the nine countries listed in the first wave of the global launch, which also includes Australia, Germany, and France. The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus will be available for preorder via Apple's online store in Singapore from September 12, with price tags starting from S$988 for the 16GB iPhone 6 to S$1,448 for the 128GB iPhone 6 Plus.  

  iPhone 6 iPhone 6 Plus
16GB S$988 S$1,148
64GB S$1,148 S$1,288
128GB S$1,288 S$1,448
Available for preorder via Apple's Singapore online store from September 12. 

No doubt the country's three local operators also will be offering the phone with contract bundles. 

What's surprising, though, is that the juggernaut Chinese market has been left out of the first wave of countries, especially since Apple took great efforts to finally ink a distribution deal with the country's largest operator, China Mobile, last December. 

In fact, China was included in the first wave of launch countries for the iPhone 5c and 5s in September 2013, along with Singapore, Japan, and Hong Kong. Speculations about the exclusion suggest it's Apple's angered response to Chinese mobile operators that had leaked details, including photos, about the iPhone 6 days before the scheduled launch event. Others point to Chinese regulators for the delay as they have yet to provide the iPhone maker with a network-access permit. 

China Mobile, China Telecom, and China Unicom, which had posted information as well as provided preorder service for the iPhone 6 before the launch date, have since removed the information from their sites, according to a China Daily report Wednesday.

Whether the latest iteration of the iPhone will do well in Asia remains to be seen. 

Ryan Huang, Singapore-based market strategist at IG Asia, said in a statement Wednesday that Apple's stock price had closed lower despite the slew of new products it unveiled during the launch, which included the much-anticipated Apple Watch.

While the wearable device marks Apple's entry into a new product category, it is a market segment "that people don't care about", Huang noted. The company's stock price fell 0.38 percent to close at US$97.99 during the launch.

"Do consumers really want a smartwatch — no less one that costs as much and potentially more than their iPhone, which is needed for it to be fully functional?" he questioned, noting that there are "lingering doubts" Apple will be able to achieve the same impact it created in the smartphone space with the iPhone, the media space with the iPod, and the tablet market with the iPad.

"In most parts of Asia, at least, handset costs to consumers are typically cushioned by telco subsidies. In order to take off, Apple Watch will probably need some similar level of subsidy to its indicative price of at least US$350. Apple fans will probably have no hesitation getting one, but the rest of the crowd is unlikely to jump on the bandwagon until they see a more compelling pricepoint, or a stronger reason to justify their spend, such as a more independent smartwatch with 3G/4G connectivity."

The Apple Watch needs an accompanying iPhone for connectivity and to function. 

He added that in one of the company's key markets, China, telcos are reportedly slashing handset subsidies of up to US$5 billion, possibly impacting higher end handsets such as the iPhone. In contrast, lower cost rivals such as up-and-coming Xiaomi, could tap this opportunity to leapfrog Apple and grab the market share lead.

Market competition is also intensifying, with strong players like Samsung, Sony, and Huawei rolling out product launches the week leading up to the iPhone 6 launch. 

Comparing the iPhone 6 to Huawei's Ascend Mate 7, one Twitter user "Joe Teh" said:  

If u compare tis phone http://t.co/SUinvJzsbH wif iPhone 6 (in terms of specs), iPhone 6 feels so dated http://t.co/p13aJIvERj #justsaying

— Joe Teh (@joeteh) September 10, 2014

There is one possible bright spark for Apple, however, Huang said. Its entry into wearables could provide new revenue streams for Apple, for example, apps developed for the watch and potential monetization from mobile ads and data analytics.

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