New iPhones a 'price' disappointment in China

Sales potential of Apple's new iPhone 5c in China is expected to be bleak, with disappointment among Chinese netizens primarily focused on its high price tag.
Written by Cyrus Lee, Contributor

I woke up at 7am this morning to have a look at the long-rumored new "cheap" iPhone. However, when I accessed my Sina Weibo account and glanced through thousands of posts ranging from official Chinese news agency accounts and Apple fans who stayed up late for the launch in the U.S., I was surprised there wasn't a single compliment for the iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s.

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All I saw were complaints and disappointments. Type "iPhone" in Weibo's search box, view the results, and you will find the same thing. I understand it is not just in China that consumers have become hard to please as all the new features have been accurately leaked before the official launch.

Chinese netizens are saying the new iPhone 5s is hideously boring, except for the fingerprint unlock function that brightened their nights just a bit. Some news agencies took to the polls to ask Chinese consumers their thoughts on iPhone 5c prices in China.

In a Sina Tech survey, which received more than 100,000 votes in less than two hours while I was writing this post, 35 percent of respondents said they would choose the iPhone 5s, compared with 3 percents who went for the iPhone 5C. The rest said they would l drop both of them. As for the prices of the iPhone 5c models, 87 percent of respondents indicated the colored iPhone 5 range was priced way too expensive for  China.

Price tag still too high for Chinese market

The official prices of iPhone 5s is identical to the iPhone 5 previously sold in China, where the low-end 16GB model is priced at 5,288 yuan (US$864) per set. However, the long-waited cheaper version, iPhone 5c, is priced at 4,488 yuan (US$733) for the 16GB model. This was the only "big surprise" to the Chinese consumers this time, though, not in a positive way, unfortunately. 

Chinese netizens express displeasure over iPhone 5c pricepoints.

Here's what Chinese netizens are saying on Sina Webo... "It brighten's Chinese smartphone makers' day." "Apple is definitely the next Nokia." "iPhone 5c's C is not Cheap, is not China, it is Cheat!"

If iPhone 5s keeps Apple in the high-end market in China, then we should not expect a bright future for the lackluster handset. Research by Canalys showed Apple's share in the Chinese smartphones market dropped to a mere 5 percent in the second quarter--ranked in seventh place after ZTE and Huawei. Its share fell by nearly half from the same period last year. Its biggest competitor, Samsung, topped the list with a market share of some 18 percent.

The future for iPhone 5c could be a disaster in China. As iPhone 5c's pricing remains at the higher end of the market in China, why would Chinese consumers who can afford an iPhone care about the 800 yuan difference (US$131) between iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c, and choose to go for a plastic and less powerful model?

What's more, in Hong Kong where the two new iPhones will also be sold in the first global release, the iPhone 5s 16GB model is priced at only HK$5,588 (US$721), which is US$12 cheaper than the iPhone 5c sold in China. It means huge smuggling profits for parallel traders, and bleak prospects for the official sales of iPhone 5c in China.

All expectations of iPhone 5c in China have been shattered by its prices. The market here is indeed the world's fastest-growing smartphone market, but it is also a market where people can afford 3,000 yuan (US$490) mid-range models, according to a columnist Zheng Jun on Sina.

"Almost the same configurations but the changes of colors, the iPhone 5c is basically the same as iPhone 5," said Luo Liang, another columnist with Sina. "If iPhone 5s is targeting high-end users, then who is going to buy iPhone 5c at this price?" 

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