China is pulling every lever to kill Apple's iPhone 15

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China is pulling every lever to kill Apple's iPhone 15
Apple's Tim Cook must prepare for a possible backlash in China as Beijing bans the use of iPhones by government officials.Apple
  • The iPhone 15 will be a tough sell in China.
  • Beijing has barred government officials from using iPhones.
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Apple is expected to introduce the iPhone 15 on September 12 to the world at its Cupertino headquarters in its customary fashion.

But there'll be a China-shaped shadow over the stage this year.

Chinese consumers love the iPhone. China is Apple's second-biggest single market by sales outside the US, and its third-biggest region behind the US and Europe.

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It accounted for 18%, or $74 billion, of Apple's revenue in the full year to September 2022. Another important metric: China grew faster by revenue than Europe, implying continued prospects for growth for Apple beyond saturated Western markets.

Unfortunately, two major challenges have arisen one week before the new iPhone's launch.

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Staff at central government agencies are now barred from using iPhones as Beijing steps up its efforts of reducing its reliance on technology that isn't made in China, according to the Wall Street Journal. That follows the US banning equipment sales from Chinese tech firms Huawei and ZTE during the Trump administration.

Given the deteriorating ties between the US and China, it's possible that Apple could have seen the ban coming.

But adding to the woes: Phone- and equipment-maker Huawei appears to have launched a new 5G smartphone with all the speed and chip power to make it a viable, homegrown alternative to the iPhone. It's a triumph for a smartphone maker that is barred from accessing Western chipmaking equipment.

The $960 Mate 60 Pro, debuted during a visit to China by US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, has been thoroughly dissected by Chinese vloggers highlighting the advanced tech inside the phone, as well as the fact it all appears to be made domestically.

On X, Chinese state-run broadcaster CGTN noted that "Huawei" became one of the top trending terms on social media app Weibo after the unveiling of the Mate 60 Pro.

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The advanced chip inside the new Mate 60 was made by Chinese company SMIC, according to a teardown by Bloomberg. "We find Huawei's and hence China's progress better than expected," analysts at Sanford C. Bernstein wrote in a client note.

The phone might not find itself into many pockets in the West, but its potential to win over Chinese consumers could hurt the iPhone 15's chances.

Martin Yang of investment bank Oppenheimer told the Wall Street Journal: "The government ban and the new Huawei phone will be material events for the iPhone."

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