Two of Apple's (AAPL) latest iPhone models may carry the number eight in their names, but that may not bring the company the luck in China that the number is associated with there.
A recent survey showed that the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus may be less popular among Chinese users than the company's other new model, the iPhone X, because its new features and striking change in visual appearance appeal more than just another upgraded model.
Despite its hefty price tag - starting at 8,388 yuan (US$1,281) in China - the iPhone X is the most wanted among the three new models, according to the survey published on Thursday by Penguin Intelligence, a market research unit affiliated with the Hong Kong-listed internet giant Tencent Holdings.
The poll of 73,907 Chinese internet users showed that 66.2 percent who expressed interest in buying a new iPhone voted for the iPhone X, 20.4 percent for the iPhone 8 Plus and 13.4 percent for the iPhone 8. About one-third of those polled would buy one of the new iPhones, it said, without detailing how many were existing Apple users.
For Beijing office worker ET Meng, the choice is easy.
"The iPhone 8 looks too identical to the iPhone 6 or 7. My philosophy is either picking the best or not buying at all," said Meng, She wants to buy an iPhone X even if it means paying an extra 2,000 yuan and waiting a few months longer.
Apple has dubbed the iPhone X "the future of the smartphone". New features not found in earlier iPhones include an edge-to-edge screen and facial recognition technology.
"Customers have a clear choice: buy an iPhone 8 or 8 Plus now and enjoy touch ID, wireless charging and improved performance, or wait and spend more on an iPhone X in a month's time," said Ian Fogg, senior director, mobile and telecom at IHS Markit, in a report.
Apple is hoping the later availability date for iPhone X and the lower pricing of the iPhone 8 will not affect iPhone 8 sales this quarter, but "it remains a risk", the IHS Markit report said.
Apart from the chance of losing customers to the iPhone X, Apple's iPhone 8 also faces tough competition from Chinese smartphone makers, who have been increasingly moving to the upper end of the value chain and whose reputation among users is growing. Chinese maker Huawei surpassed Apple in global smartphone sales in June and July.
The Penguin Intelligence survey found that Apple's brand loyalty was slipping, with about 65.7 per cent of iPhone users saying they were likely to choose the same brand for their next phone, compared with 72.8 percent of Huawei users who said they would stick to the brand.
While the iPhone remained the most satisfying smartphone due to the user experience of its iOS operating system, about 41. 6 per cent of former iPhone users surveyed said they now use a Huawei phone, compared with 25 per cent from a similar survey in 2016.
Huawei is expected to launch its new phone in October.
However, Peng Yuxiang, a business intelligence analyst at a Beijing-based data company, said the iPhone 8 is still worth buying because of its faster processor, more advanced chips and augmented reality technology.
Nevertheless, he said there would be plenty of Chinese users opting for the iPhone X.
"Awesome exterior design remains their primary incentive when it comes to buying," he said.
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