Apple will finally launch iPhone 6 models in China, after weeks of unexplained delays. Apple had initially planned to launch iPhone 6 models in China and the wider Asian market on September 26th, before unexpectedly pulling out China from the international launch list.
The iPhone maker is now ready launch of iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 plus in China on Friday, October 17th, after allegedly resolving all the issues leading to the delay. “Customers can pre-order iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus from the Apple Online Store beginning Friday, October 10. Beginning Tuesday, October 14, customers can reserve the new iPhones for in-store pick-up starting Friday, October 17th.” Said Apple.
“We are thrilled to bring iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus to our customers in China on all three carriers at launch,” said Apple’s CEO Tim Cook. “With support for TD-LTE and FDD-LTE, iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus customers will have access to high-speed mobile networks from China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom for an incredible experience.”
The reasons for the botched September launch are still not clear. News sources from china said the Ministry for Industry and Information Technology had not licensed the sale of iPhone 6 model in the Chinese market by the launch date. All technology devices must be approved by the regulator before selling in the China. Source familiar with Apple’s situation on China, indicates the Beijing leadership is wary of foreign technology providers cyber-spying on China, a probable cause of the regulatory delays.
CCTV, a state controlled television network had earlier indicated in July that iPhone, could be used by US National Security Agency (NSA) to spy or eavesdrop on Chinese users. Apple however dismissed the accusations.
“We appreciate CCTV’s effort to help educate customers on a topic we think is very important,” Apple said in a statement responding to CCTV’s allegations. “We want to make sure all of our customers in China are clear about what we do and we don’t do when it comes to privacy and your personal data.
“Apple has never worked with any government agency from any country to create a back door in any of our products or services,” the statement said. “We have also never allowed access to our servers. And we never will. It’s something we feel very strongly about.”
Apple had to assure the Chinese government that its systems are secure and users’ data will not be used for spying purposes. In an attempt to quell the regulator’s concerns, Apple has begun storing users’ data on servers in China. Apple has also been seeking to appoint a law enforcement agent in Beijing.
In a job positing on LinkedIn Apple sought to appoint a Law enforcement Agent who will be expected to handle the “increasing number of third-party requests for access to Apple controlled data within China”. The ideal candidate will need to “educate requesters as to the data that can and cannot be supplied in particular circumstances while maintaining good working relations with requesters,” stated Apple.
Bureaucratic controls are not new in China, It is difficult to separate politics and legitimate regulatory requirements. Firms like Google have opted to move their servers outside China to avoid constants requests for users’ information by the Chinese government.
According to market analysts, an iPhone Lock-out in China could have heightened the tension between US and China over cyber-spying. Many would have viewed it as a retaliation against and earlier decision by Washington to blacklist Chinese manufactures Huawei and ZTE on security grounds. Beijing seem to have considered the economic implications of such a decision and opted not to drag the smartphone manufacture into the cyberspace warfare with US.
Greater China is an important market segment for Apple. Besides being the third largest market after Europe and America, it is Apple’s fastest growing market. 2013 sales report shows Apple revenue from Greater China- Including mainland Hong Kong and Taiwan where iPhones have been on sale – rose to $5.9billion from April to June; an increase of 28% compared to the same period last year. Greater china accounted for 16% of Apples’ revenue up from 13% in the same period the previous year. Meanwhile sales from other markets increased by 1 to 6% in the same period.
Apple is keen on growing the Asian market, as its western markets are getting saturated. Reports by Quarts show that the Asian smartphone market is greatly dominated by Google’s Android Smartphones, Apple curving less than 10% of the market share
iPhone 6 comes in space gray, silver or gold, and will retail in China at 5,288(RMB) for the 16GB model, 6,088(RMB) for the 64GB model and 6,888(RMB) for the 128GB model. iPhone 6 plus will retail at 6,080(RMB) for the 16GB model , 6888(RMB) for the 64GB model, and for the first time the new 128GB will retail at 7,788 (RMB). Both phones will be available in china through the Apple Online store or though China Mobile, China Telecom, China Unicom and other authorized Apple resellers in China.