Apple’s iPhone 5 announcement is coming in just a few short hours now. But could this be the first Apple device that meets a lukewarm reception in China? To be honest, probably not. We still expect this thing to sell like hotcakes. But it’s worth noting this poll of more than 13,000 Sina Weibo users (h/t to Shanghaiist’s Kenneth Tan for the link) that only 21 percent of them are planning to buy the handset when it comes out.
Of course, 21 percent of weibo users is still an awful lot, but Sina Weibo users are a big part of Apple’s target demographic: they’re young, tech-saavy, and tend to have white-collar jobs and more disposable income than the average Chinese net user. For that reason, I’m a bit surprised the “plan to buy” numbers aren’t a little higher.
Still, we fully expect the iPhone 5 to sell well in China because all Apple devices do. But it’s worth noting that this is the first new Apple handset to be announced since China’s smartphone market became flooded with cheap — but branded and powerful — smartphones from companies like Xiaomi, Shanda, Baidu, and Qihoo among numerous others.
Part of the iPhone’s appeal in China is that it isn’t cheap; it’s a status symbol, and a new model that looks visually different from previous iPhones — as the iPhone 5 is rumored to — should sell very well among the wanting-to-show-off crowd. But I can’t help but wonder if as time goes by, Apple isn’t going to face stiffer challenges from some of these lower-cost domestic competitors. I don’t think that the iPhone 5 is going to face all that much trouble, but it could be the first Apple product to get a real taste of what it’s like to compete with a much stronger domestic market.