Apple is offering temporary discounts on iPhones and other products in China, an incredibly unusual step for Apple as competition in Asia's smartphone industry heats up.
As part of a Lunar New Year promotion, Apple's official Chinese website is offering discounts of up to 500 RMB ($70) on the newest iPhone series. Other major Apple items, including the Mac and iPad, will be discounted by up to 800 RMB ($112) and 400 RMB ($56), respectively, during the offer, which runs from January 18 to January 21.
Although third-party vendors occasionally discount Apple products, Apple rarely offers deals or sales as part of its effort to preserve a premium brand image, which has been especially critical as Apple seeks to entice high-end shoppers in China.
The decision to lower iPhone prices comes just over five months after Chinese tech giant Huawei debuted its latest smartphone, the Mate 60 Pro. The Huawei smartphone has been eagerly embraced by Chinese consumers—so much that its use of an advanced chip has come under scrutiny from US officials.
Around the same time that Huawei's Marquis smartphone was announced, the Wall Street Journal reported that China had banned the use of iPhones by central government personnel, citing unnamed sources. A Chinese government spokesperson then disputed that China has enacted any laws or policies prohibiting the use of iPhones.
The new iPhone discounts in China raise additional doubts about how demand for Apple products has recently fared in the world's second-largest economy. China has traditionally been a major market for Apple, accounting for nearly one-fifth of total sales last year.
According to Counterpoint Research, iPhone 15 sales in China were 4.5% lower than iPhone 14 sales in the first two weeks following its September introduction. In a letter to investors last week, Jefferies Research estimated that iPhone sales had fallen 30% in the first week of the year, according to Reuters.
China is among Apple's most important markets. It is the second-largest by sales, after only the North American market. However, China's economy has been underperforming over the last year, limiting Apple's overall growth. Last week, Apple lost its position as the stock market's most valued firm, falling behind Microsoft.