iPhone15 series at Apple's flagship store in Hangzhou, East China

Apple Slashes iPhone Prices in China Amid ‘618’ Shopping Festival

Apple is offering its deepest iPhone discounts ever in China as the annual “618” shopping festival kicks off, aiming to revive sales amidst sluggish consumer demand and fierce competition from local smartphone brands.

Starting Monday, Apple announced significant price cuts on some iPhone models on Tmall, a major e-commerce platform owned by Alibaba. Discounts of up to 23% will be available until May 28. For instance, the iPhone 15, originally priced at 5,999 yuan ($833), is now being sold for 4,599 yuan ($639) — a reduction of 1,400 yuan ($194).

This move comes as Apple struggles to maintain its market share in China, the world’s second-largest economy, facing stiff competition from domestic manufacturers like Huawei and Vivo. According to Counterpoint Research, Apple’s market share in China dropped to 15.7% in the first quarter of this year, down from 19.7% a year earlier, while Huawei’s sales surged by 70%.

The “618” festival, initiated by JD.com in 2008, is one of China’s largest online shopping events, second only to Alibaba’s Singles Day. These festivals surpass Black Friday and Cyber Monday in total sales, with major e-commerce sites and retailers offering extensive promotions to attract consumers.

Rihanna joined the promotional frenzy in Shanghai on Tuesday, making a popular Chinese breakfast crepe and showcasing her Fenty Beauty products in a live stream on Douyin, China’s version of TikTok.

While Apple has been offering discounts on iPhones and iPads in China since October, this month’s price cuts are the most substantial yet in its biggest overseas market, according to Chinese state media. Jefferies analysts emphasized the necessity for Apple to defend its market share aggressively.

The steep discounts have placed the iPhone 15 in the same price range as smartphones from Xiaomi and Huawei, intensifying the price war not only in the smartphone sector but across various industries in China.

The “618” shopping festival, a crucial indicator of consumer trends in China, has sparked intense competition among e-commerce platforms and brands. However, the aggressive discounting has led some companies to boycott the event. Over 50 publishing houses issued joint statements on Monday, refusing to participate due to the mandatory 20% to 30% discounts enforced by JD.com.

A statement from 10 Beijing-based publishing houses described the boycott as essential to “maintain the stability and prosperity” of the book market. Another statement from 46 companies in Shanghai condemned the “disorderly” competition. Major state-owned publishers also criticized the chaotic price wars, calling for broader resistance or more effective regulation.

As Apple slashes prices to boost sales during the “618” festival, the broader implications for market competition and consumer behavior in China remain to be seen.

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