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Fans cheer, but Asia gives iPhone 7 subdued welcome

In part, online pre-ordering has made queues unnecessary for all but diehard fans, and in Chinese stores only those who had ordered in advance were queuing to collect. Photograph: (AFP)

WION Shanghai, Cina Sep 16, 2016, 05.54 PM (IST)
The first customers worldwide to get their hands on the new Apple iPhone 7 in China and Australia cheered as they left stores on Friday.

But unlike previous years, the crowds of enthusiasts and overnight campers were smaller. Some customers complained after the iPhone 7 plus and models with the new jet-black colour sold out.

In part, online pre-ordering has made queues unnecessary for all but diehard fans, and in Chinese stores, only those who had ordered in advance were queuing to collect.

But online interest in the new phone has also been muted compared to past launches, as cheaper local brands amp up their features, design, and marketing in China.

Wu Ting, a 28-year-old from Nanjing, was surprised to find herself first in line at a downtown Apple store in Shanghai on Friday, a holiday in China.

"I found last year that there were crowds of people, but this year almost no-one. I came an hour early thinking I'd have to wait a long time before getting seen," Wu said.

Sales in China will be the acid test for Apple's year ahead: the success of the iPhone 6 in China drove sales last year, while the slower-burn 6S contributed to Apple's first global revenue drop in over a decade earlier this year.

Apple's market share in China has fallen to around 7.8 percent, placing it fifth behind local rivals Huawei, OPPO, and Vivo.

Apple has been slower to adapt, consumers and analysts say: the new iPhone has few major changes to win over fickle shoppers and the firm's marketing has been generic.

"From Steve Jobs to Tim Cook, Apple has never had any marketing strategy tailor-made for China," said Zhou Zhanggui, a Beijing-based strategic consultant.

"Apple risks losing out more if it does not better cater to local demands in its marketing as well as product design."

(WION with inputs from Reuters)
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