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Apple’s iPhone Shipments in China Fell 33% Last Month

Apple’s iPhone shipments in China dropped by 33% in February compared to the same month last year, according to governement figures (via Bloomberg).

A report from China’s Academy of Information and Communications Technology showed that foreign brands shipped around 2.4 million smartphones last month. Given that Apple is the only overseas vendor with a meaningful market share, the company accounts for the vast majority of those shipments.

The decline in February marks the third consecutive month of lower iPhone shipments. Apple in January shipped some 5.5 million units in China, which is around 39% fewer handsets than the same time last year. In December, the company suffered a 30% year-on-year decline in the country.

Apple appears to be facing an uphill battle to reverse falling iPhone sales in China, with a 24% year-on-year decline in 2023 projected to deepen through 2024. Apple resellers in China have been increasingly dependent on discounts to shift ‌iPhone 15‌ stock. The discounts followed Apple’s own rare price reductions on its website ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday in February.

Apple’s efforts to counter the slump are also likely to be hampered by China’s decision last year to ban iPhones from the offices of multiple government agencies and state companies. China has a huge number of state-owned enterprises in power generation, seaport construction, mining, manufacturing, education, and investment markets.

Apple is also having to contend with strong interest in Huawei’s latest home-grown Mate 60 lineup, which was released in September just weeks before the iPhone 15 launched. Huawei’s Mate 60 Pro uses a new China-made 7-nanometer processor tailored for the local market, showcasing the kind of advanced semiconductor manufacturing capabilities that US sanctions were originally designed to prevent.

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The overall Chinese smartphone market contracted by almost a third in February, according to research firm Canalys. Analysts still predict growth over the course of the year, but expect iPhone 15 sales to keep falling while local rivals continue to aggressively promote AI features in device marketing. CEO Tim Cook visited China earlier this month to Apple’s newest store in Shanghai and attend the China Development Forum in Beijing, where he said the country was “critical” to Apple.

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