Apple’s Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook made an appearance in Beijing this week to celebrate China Mobile’s sales of iPhones, which kicked off yesterday, and several customers of the world’s largest mobile carrier inquired about Apple’s plans to develop a device with a bigger screen.
Cook was at China Mobile’s headquarters store as the world’s largest carrier started selling the iPhone, concluding six years of negotiations with Apple. As Cook handed out autographed iPhones with carrier Chairman Xi Guohua, people asked him about bigger screens and the use of flexible displays.
“We never talk about future things,” Cook said. “We have great things we are working on but we want to keep them secret. That way you will be so much happier when you see it.”
Surprisingly, the turnout for the China Mobile iPhone launch yesterday was in some cases underwhelming. According to the New York Times, at one store in Beijing only about a dozen customers showed up to buy iPhones despite Cook’s guest appearance. NY Times’ Eric Pfanner attributes diminishing iPhone sales partly to a Chinese market that has recently leaned towards domestic brands rather than foreign.
When iPhones were introduced in China five years ago by the country’s second-largest mobile operator, China Unicom, they found a ready market among trend-conscious consumers. Since then, despite adding the country’s third-biggest carrier, China Telecom, to its lineup, Apple has lost ground to the market leader in smartphones, Samsung Electronics, and lower-end domestic rivals. Apple’s market share in China has fallen into the single digits.
“Apple used to be the must-have, aspirational brand for all wealthy and middle-class Chinese consumers,” said Shaun Rein, managing director of the China Market Research Group and the author of “The End of Cheap China.” “But over the last year, there has been a real deterioration of the Apple brand.”
Analysts have said that Apple would be more likely to widen its potential market in China by developing new features that appeal to Chinese consumers, like bigger screens (the Samsung Note 3, with its 5.7″ screen, is hugely popular here).
According to Bloomberg, Cleveland Research analyst Benjamin Bollin said in a note from January 13 that Apple may introduce two larger-screen iPhone devices this year.
[Images via Xinhua]