Apple CEO Tim Cook hints at popularity of new lower cost iPhone XR in China


Apple chief executive Tim Cook seems relieved that the company’s more affordable iPhone XR is apparently doing better in China compared to the tepid Chinese response to its recent high-end flagship released last month.

“Wonderful to see so many people in China enjoying the new iPhone XR. Glad we could help add some colour to your day!” Cook said in his official Sina Weibo account on Saturday, a day after the company’s cheaper iPhone models officially hit the shelves in China.

The iPhone XR line-up, available in six colours, starts from 6,499 yuan (US$936) in China, about 25 per cent and 32 per cent cheaper, respectively, than the entry level versions of the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, the US tech giant’s two flagship smartphones for the year.

Cook did not reveal specific sales figures for the iPhone XR in China. An Apple spokesperson declined to reveal further details about iPhone XR sales in China, adding that Cook’s Weibo post was not meant to hint at anything regarding the popularity of the XR versus the XS.

On September 21, after the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max were launched globally, Cook said on his Sina Weibo account: “Thrilled to open our first store in beautiful Suzhou! Enjoy the new iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and Apple Watch Series 4.”

The Cupertino, California-based company, which failed to attract public attention with its flagship iPhone XS debut in China last month due to high pricing and innovation issues, is also caught in the middle of the trade war between the US and China which has prompted some Chinese buyers to turn to local brands in a patriotic show of support.

When the iPhone XS debuted in China in September, only a handful of people queued up outside Apple Stores across mainland China, according to photos circulated on social media – in contrast to the large crowds seen at earlier iPhone launches in the country.

Apple is adjusting its strategy in China where it faces fierce competition from local brands that are offering competitive products, eroding the market share of foreign brands including Samsung and Apple.

In a nod to the Chinese market, where many users have more than one phone number, Apple introduced a dual-sim card tray for the iPhone XS, only available for the Greater China market.

The colourful iPhone XR models are also seen as a way to appeal to younger consumers, especially those in China, who are price-sensitive yet still eager to own a premium brand like Apple.

The launch of the iPhone XR is expected to help Apple unlock Chinese demand, which is “the engine that Apple is looking for”, Dan Ives, the managing director of equity research at Wedbush Securities, said in an CNBC interview on Friday.