Globally, the frenzy over Apple’s iPhone 6 has settled long ago. Even China, where the iPhone 6 has enjoyed great success, has reported a recent decline in sales. iPhone 6s have been the best-selling smartphones in China, yet Apple was hoping that the official launch of the iPhone 7 on September 16, 2016, would bring back an iPhone frenzy to China.

But many smartphone users are questioning the need for another update. As it was with computers, innovation in smartphones has essentially reached its limit. Most people I know who own an iPhone 6, haven’t bothered learning how to use it beyond the basics. Life’s too short, and most people are far too busy to become too acquainted with their iPhone. For most Apple users, an update to the iPhone 7 is a pointless activity.

Status symbol

China is nonetheless the second largest market for iPhones after the U.S. The iPhone has certainly been a status symbol in China, a country in which image means a lot. The Chinese are very particular about how they are presented to the world. iPhone 6s were out of stock after a few days of going on sale in China. Apple was hoping that the iPhone 7 would be just as popular and fans did turn out, but smaller in number than those at the launch of the iPhone 6. Sydney and Shanghai were the first two cities worldwide, in which the iPhone 7 could be bought, and there were cheers as enthusiasts left the store brandishing their purchases, as applauding sales staff looked on. In contrast, celebrations were more muted in Sydney.

Online pre-ordering

Partially, the reason for the fewer numbers was due to online pre-ordering. In China, those in the queues had pre-ordered and were guaranteed their purchase would be there when they arrived to pick it up. No need to camp overnight in these circumstances. Online pre-ordering hasn’t proved to be as popular either, even for China, as it was in the iPhone 6 launch. 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 time,” she said, “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.”

Sales in China will determine how Apple’s business year will unfold. The success of the iPhone 6s in China over the last couple of years kept sales at an all-time high worldwide. That was why Shanghai was given the honor of the premier this time round. Why Sydney tagged along is a bit of a mystery, though they both start with an S.


The iPhone fans still exist

Chatter about the iPhone 7 launch on Chinese microblog Weibo has been far less noticeable than when the iPhone 6s was sending the Chinese into a frenzy. An index of searches on Baidu Inc, China’s most popular search engine, finds the iPhone 7 is lagging behind iPhone 6 and iPhone 5. The iPhone 7 has few significant changes to win over the fadsters. In Beijing’s fashionable Sanlitun shopping district, several people, who had just bought iPhone 7s, were reportedly hawking them on the street.

But Apple remains number one for some customers. Marcus Barsoum, a 16-year-old, who described himself as a ‘diehard Apple fan,’ spent two nights camped out at the Sydney store. These people do exist. They are real. If it were possible to peer into their skulls, you’d find a typical enough brain, not circuit boards and wires. By the morning, some 200 people were gathered in light rain to be the first customers globally to own iPhone 7s. Weary but joyful, Barsoum charged into the store at 8am to the cheers of Apple staff. He emerged with a matte black iPhone 7, although he had wanted a larger 7 plus in jet black. Two nights of camping and being first in line couldn’t even get him what he wanted. Is there any justice in this world? “It feels great,” he said, “to be the first in the world to have the iPhone 7. It was 100% worth it.” No one can take that away from him I guess.


They don’t want air pods

Will the arrival of the iPhone 7 in China, turn around flagging sales? Very unlikely. The lack of difference, in essence, between iPhone 6s and iPhone 7, coupled with fierce competition from local companies such as Huawei and OPPO, who are selling arguably better phones at a lower price than iPhones, has caused consumers to lose interest in the Apple products. New features in the iPhone 7 – notably the removal of the headphone jack – will serve to deter many Chinese customers, who find the headphone jack on iPhone 6s convenient and don’t want to pay the extra $159 for the new wireless headphones called air pods, which require charging every five hours. Chinese social media has spoken. They don’t want air pods.

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