Sep 09, 2013

    Apple poised for Asia revival with new phones

    APPLE is positioning itself for a comeback attempt in Asia. With sales of its iPhones falling in China, the biggest smartphone market in the world, the company is set to announce two versions of the device this week.

    In Japan, where it is much stronger but faces a renewed challenge from domestic smartphone- makers like Sony, the firm has struck a deal to sell the iPhone via the biggest mobile-phone carrier, NTT Docomo.

    Apple has scheduled an event in Beijing on Wednesday, a rebroadcast of a news conference at its headquarters in Cupertino, California, to be held tomorrow. The firm has long been expected to unveil two phones there - the iPhone 5S, an upgraded version of its flagship iPhone 5, as well as the iPhone 5C, a lower-cost phone aimed at people in China and other emerging markets.

    There has been speculation that Apple would use the announcement of its iPhone line-up to announce an agreement with China Mobile, the biggest mobile operator in China, to sell the iPhone. Doing so would give Apple access to the company's enormous subscriber base - 744 million as of July 31.

    That would be a much-needed lift for the Cupertino-based company in China, where it slipped into sixth place among smartphone-makers in the second quarter, with a share of only 4.8 per cent, according to Canalys, a research firm.

    A Weibo message from China Telecom stated that China would be either "the first" or "one of the first" countries to get the new phones, based on Chinese phrasing that could be translated either way.

    In the past, Apple did not make iPhones available in China until several months after they had gone on sale in the United States. In the meantime, many Chinese consumers chose phones from growing domestic brands like Huawei, Lenovo, ZTE, Coolpad and Xiaomi.

    In Japan, Docomo has been an Apple refusenik, until now.

    The company has 60 million customers, but it has been losing market share to the other two main mobile operators in Japan, SoftBank and KDDI, which operates under the brand name au.

    Both of those companies have been marketing Apple's phones aggressively.

    Still, Apple's share of smartphone sales slipped to 30 per cent in the second quarter from 36 per cent in the first quarter, according to Canalys. Sony's share rose to 22 per cent from 11 per cent.