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Apple's iPhone shipments in China surge nearly 40% in May, fuelled by aggressive price cuts

The smartphone giant is likely the driving force behind increase in foreign-brand shipments in China
Apple's iPhone shipments in China surge nearly 40% in May, fuelled by aggressive price cuts
  • Shipments of foreign-branded phones in China rose by 1.425 million units in May
  • With 2024 and iPhone 16 expected to be a major upgrade year, the company is clearing stock and building its iOS base

Apple's smartphone shipments in China increased by nearly 40% in May compared to the previous year as the April rebound continues. 

According to data from a research firm affiliated with the Chinese government via Reuters, shipments of foreign-branded phones in China rose by 1.425 million units in May, reaching 5.028 million units from 3.603 million units a year ago. 

While the data from China's Academy of Information and Communications Technology (CAICT) did not explicitly mention Apple as the leading foreign phone manufacturer in China, the iPhone company likely drove the increase in foreign-brand phone shipments. 

A never-ending competition 

This surge also follows a weak performance earlier in the year due to strong competition from local rivals like Huawei.

Apple's May sales increase extended its growth streak, following a 52% jump in April, a significant recovery from a 37% slump in early 2023. Despite an 8.1% drop in second-quarter revenue from Greater China, CEO Tim Cook projected iPhone sales growth in markets like China. 

Sales have held strong due to price cuts on current stock of recent models. Apple famously remains resolute on its pricing, but with 2024 anticipated to be a prime upgrade year (thanks to the extra utility AI introduced by iOS18 which will be a main feature of this year's iPhone 16 coming in September) the company has decided to drop prices across the range.

Apple has been offering price cuts of up to 2,300 yuan ($316.71) on selected models. 

Buy now… buy later too

The thinking is that those that upgrade and take advantage of lower pricing now - while bagging themselves a 'bargain' - will only subsequently still have to upgrade in order to own a phone able to run the very latest features.

With high iPhone 16 sales anticipated the company can afford some leway on pricing for existing models in order to clear stock and boost iOS ecosystem device buy-in.

While the increase in sales is good news for Apple, it's worth noting that Huawei overtook it as China's number two smartphone vendor, with Android-based Honor in the top spot as most popular phone brand. 

Overall phone sales in China rose 16.5% to 30.33 million units in May, according to CAICT data.