Apple's China Mobile iPhone launch "weak" -- really?

January 17, 2014 11:13 AM EST

If you live through a lens created by reading the New York Times, then you'd be forgiven for thinking Apple's much-vaunted China Mobile iPhone launch saw "weak response", and while there's plenty around who want you to believe that, you'd be wrong.

Twisted facts

You see, the NYT claims only "a dozen" Chinese customers showed up at a China Mobile store in Beijing today to get hold of a new iPhone. Why? That's not what these pictures, or these pictures, tell us. These images show lots of happy iPhone shoppers.

The claims in the NYT report are anecdotal at best.

The report also claims that Apple's market share is down to "single digits". Certainly Apple's share declined heavily across summer 2013, but it quadrupled in October on the release of the new devices, when Apple grabbed 12 percent share in China at last count. That's right up by Samsung and Lenovo. And it is in fact two digits.

The facts appear to have been selectively chosen to represent what could be seen as bias in the NYT report. Why not use the current market share? Why use these twisted facts?

Fortunately no one waved two digits within the NYT spin, which goes on to describe Apple as way behind the rest of the pack, going on at length about Apple's decline in China. That's the fable, but factually there's plenty that represent plenty of iPhone interest in China today:

  • China Mobile has already told us a million customers  pre-registered for a new China Mobile iPhone in advance of the release. They don't need to queue.
  • China Mobile is offering the new device through 3,000 stores across the country. No need to queue.
  • To get a China Mobile phone you need to reserve your iPhone, so there's little point just turning up. You pick your phone up when it's ready. You won't need to queue too much.
  • Last time there was a big Apple reveal in China, the event ended in riot: I don't imagine Apple, China Mobile or China wanted another riot. You might imagine they decided not to try to create a huge queue rather than create a riot.

Since the iPhone 4S riot/launch Apple's launches have been a little more laid back, notes Counterpoint (via CNBC):

"The iPhone 5s didn't attract long queues outside Apple retails stores [in China] as the iPhone 4s did [a] couple of years ago but it definitely was more successful compared to [the] iPhone 5," Tom Kang, director at Counterpoint wrote, when assessing the introduction of iPhone 5S on China's other networks late last year.

So, where are we now?

  • Pre-orders for Apple’s iPhone reached about 1 million units, China Mobile said earlier this week.
  • China Mobile may sell about 10 million iPhone units this year, according to estimates from Tucker Grinnan (HSBC Holdings) and James Yan (IDC). (Estimates vary wildly, as no one really knows).
  • The iPhone 5S is currently the world's most popular smartphone.
  • Apple's China Mobile launch seems on target to shift the 1.4 million units Foxconn has reportedly delivered to meet demand.

I'm a blogger and have opinions, they aren't always popular, but they are mine. I expect news reports to deliver objective fact, without spin. I expect blogger's to deliver opinions that make me think. The facts as known at this point do not suggest a "weak response" to the launch on China Mobile. So why write a blog rather than a news report, NYT?

Addition: Oddly, the NYT report appears to have undergone a little revision since this response was written. It still (incorrectly) states Apple share in the "single digits". Interesting.

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