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    Apple Rolls Out iPhone Discounts but Reaction Muted

    The U.S. tech giant has seen its market share in the world’s largest smartphone market eaten into by domestic rivals in the past year.

    For the first time in years, Apple has slashed the retail price of its latest iPhone products in China by as much as 500 yuan ($69.8) as competition from domestic rivals ramps up and consumers look for cheaper alternatives.

    The four-day promotion celebrating the upcoming Lunar New Year will start Thursday, with discounts across the tech giant’s range of products including tablets, watches, and earphones.

    A maximum discount of 800 yuan will be offered for the MacBook Air, according to the company’s official website.

    Soon after Apple announced its promotion on Monday, the hashtag “Apple offers a rare and considerable price cut” topped the trending list on Chinese microblogging platform Weibo, with more than 380 million views as of publication time. Many users said the products are still too expensive, comparing them unfavorably with cheaper homegrown brands.

    “It’s increasingly difficult for today’s iPhones to have capabilities that match their price,” commented one tech influencer with more than 3 million followers on the platform.

    Chen Chen, a 28-year-old Apple product enthusiast in Beijing, told Sixth Tone that the official discounts lack appeal as other e-commerce platforms are offering lower prices.

    “It seems the promotion is meant to promote and clear the inventories of more budget-friendly products such as the MacBook Air,” said Chen.

    While Apple surprised the market by rolling out its iPhone 15 in September at the same price as the iPhone 14, sales in China have reportedly been down compared to the previous model. A month after its release, price cuts of up to 900 yuan were being reported on major e-commerce platforms.

    A search of Pinduoduo, Taobao, and by Sixth Tone on Tuesday showed the 128GB iPhone 15 was priced between 4,000 yuan to 5,200 yuan. On Apple’s official site, the price is currently 5,999 yuan, or 5,599 yuan with the upcoming discount.

    China is a major overseas market for Apple, but it has seen its market share fall in the past year as homegrown rivals such as Huawei have increased theirs.

    In 2023, Apple saw a 3% decline in iPhone sales in China, according to estimates by American investment bank Jefferies, while sales have continued to fall in the first week of this year.

    Meanwhile, Huawei, whose flagship Mate 60 series of phones was launched in August, overtook Apple to become the biggest smartphone seller by sales in China in October, according to Jefferies.

    China is expected to ship 287 million smartphones this year, a 3.6% increase from last year, according to global market consultancy IDC, marking the first positive growth in three years. The recovering economy and greater consumer demand for better devices are fueling the rise, the consultancy said.

    (Header image: VCG)