China's online chatter muted ahead of Apple iPhone 7 launch

Tue Sep 6, 2016 10:26pm EDT
 
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By Adam Jourdan and Paul Carsten

SHANGHAI/BEIJING (Reuters) - Judging by the volume of online chatter, there's a lot less buzz in China ahead of this week's expected launch of the new Apple Inc (AAPL.O: Quote) iPhone, and people on the street say they're more likely to "wait and see" what the latest device offers than rush out to buy.

Posts on China's popular Sina Weibo microblogging site show the iPhone 6, which took China by storm in 2014 with its new, larger screen, attracted around 15 times more comments in the month before launch than this year's model.

The muted online anticipation for the iPhone 7 underlines the challenge Apple faces to revive growth in China, where an economic slowdown has slammed the brakes on what was once touted as the firm's next big growth engine.

Apple's Greater China sales dropped by a third in April-June, albeit after more than doubling a year earlier, and revenue was down by more than a quarter to $8.8 billion - around a fifth of its total sales. Its 7.8 percent market share ranked fifth in China, trailing local vendors Huawei Technologies Co Ltd [HWT.UL], OPPO and Vivo, which together accounted for 47 percent, according to IDC data.

The California-based company's online stores for iBooks and movies was also closed in China after Beijing imposed strict curbs in March on online publishing, and Apple has been on the losing side of intellectual property battles here.

Beijing student Wang Yue, 23, said she was in no hurry to buy an iPhone 7. "I'm looking forward to the launch, but I won't rush to buy anything," Wang, who uses an iPhone 6S that was launched last year, told Reuters. "I want to know what new functions it's got. My feeling is there are no real major changes from the 6S, so I think I'll hold off for a while."

Apple is widely anticipated to unveil the new iPhone 7 at an event in San Francisco on Wednesday. The company, which doesn't give a regional breakdown for its iPhone sales, didn't respond to requests for comment.

Among half a dozen consumers Reuters spoke to most said they would first check out the new phone's functions or wait for the price to drop. Only one planned to definitely buy any new model.   Continued...

 
Workers prepare for the opening of an Apple store in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, January 23, 2015.  REUTERS/Chance Chan/File Photo