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Deciphering the reasons why iPhone 15 models have become cheaper in China

Zhu Shenshen
Apple faces tough competition from Android models in China, especially Huawei's popular Mate 60, as well as companies that are releasing foldable smartphones.
Zhu Shenshen

Prices of Apple's new iPhone 15 models have plunged on Chinese mainstream online channels, just one month since their official debut, Shanghai Daily discovered on Tuesday.

The reasons cited for the surprising decline are: the iPhone's overheating issue, the marketing campaign for the upcoming shopping festival, and competition from Android models, especially Huawei's Mate 60.

On e-commerce site Pinduoduo, the iPhone 15 Pro, the most popular new iPhone, costs between 7,398 yuan (US$1,013) and 11,298 yuan, up to 1,700 yuan lower than official prices on Apple's website. For premier iPhone 15 Pro Max models, the prices are also 900 to 1,600 yuan lower.

On, the iPhone 15 models are sold with free coupons valued at several hundred yuan.

On another major online channel Taobao, iPhone 15 models are sold 300 to 900 yuan cheaper.

Comparatively, Apple's offline channels have retained the original price.

Deciphering the reasons why iPhone 15 models have become cheaper in China
Zhu Shenshen / SHINE

A screenshot of Weibo's trending topic: iPhone 15 price plunge.

Price declines are not often seen during new iPhone seasons, especially so soon after the launch. In previous years, people had to pay additional fees, such as 500 to 1,500 yuan higher than the official price, for popular models or unique colors.

The issue, tagged as "iPhone 15 price plunge," has become a trending topic on social media platform Weibo.

"I am not surprised with that (price plunge). The Android models have excellent performance in terms of the operating system, charging and photography – same with or better than iPhones," Lao Liu, a telecommunications influencer on Weibo with 1.29 million fans, pointed out.

Reasons behind the price hike

Just few days after the launch, Apple identified some issues that caused the new iPhone 15 models to run warmer than normal, including a bug in the iOS 17 software which will be fixed in an upcoming update.

"Another issue involves some recent updates to third-party apps that are causing them to overload the system," the American tech giant said.

This followed consumer complaints about the new phones getting very warm, which meant that the batteries didn't last for one day of usage. It caused concern among Chinese consumers as the battery is not normally deemed as iPhone's strong point, compared with Android models.

Deciphering the reasons why iPhone 15 models have become cheaper in China
Zhu Shenshen / SHINE

People gather at a Shanghai Huawei store after the Mate 60 Pro models were launched.

Meanwhile, Apple has faced competition from Android brands, especially Huawei, in the domestic market.

In China, Android sales led by Huawei, Xiaomi and Honor grew while Apple's iPhone has seen a significant, double-digit decline. As a result, Huawei overtook iPhone to take the No. 1 spot for market share, according to researchers' reports last week.

Since the release of the Chinese tech giant's Mate 60 Series models in September, Huawei has been the fastest-growing smartphone brand in China.

"The trend suggests iPhone would lose to Huawei in 2024," wrote Jefferies analysts.

Huawei's new phone release, and its warm market response, may mark a return of the former smartphone market leader and a meaningful breakthrough in China's chip-making technology, industry insiders suggested.

Foldable feature is a breakthrough for Android brands, from Huawei, Honor, OPPO to Samsung, who are tapping into the high-end market segment and challenging the dominance of Apple, Shanghai Daily learned.

According to IDC, China's foldable smartphone sales hit 1.26 million units in the second half so far, surging a whopping 173 percent year on year.

Apple hasn't released any news on foldable models. It may release foldable products in 2024 but not the iPhone, experts said.

The iPhone's price decline comes from coupons and discounts, mainly offered by third-party platforms like PDD and Taobao. And the leading online shopping sites are gearing up for the largest promotional event, with the Double 11 (Singles Day) promotion season to be unveiled next week.

But no one can deny that the iPhone 15 is facing rough weather in the Chinese market unlike the company's previous models.

During its release, Apple's iPhone garnered several uncomplimentary comments on Weibo's top trending topics, like the "most expensive iPhone ever" or "lack of innovation."

Deciphering the reasons why iPhone 15 models have become cheaper in China
Ti Gong

Apple chief executive Tim Cook met Jin Zhuanglong, China's minister of industry and information technology, in Beijing earlier in October.

But Apple's management seems to have realized the issue and is paying close attention to the Chinese market.

Tim Cook, Apple's chief executive, visits China frequently. He visited cities including Chengdu and Beijing earlier this month to meet with consumers, partners and supply chain companies. Cook also met Jin Zhuanglong, minister of industry and information technology, during the trip.

According to company figures and media reports, China accounts for 20 percent of Apple's total revenue and contributes 48 percent to its supply chain.

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