Apple Watch Series 3 Facing LTE Setbacks in China, Likely Due to Government ‘Security Concerns’

The cellular capabilities of the Apple Watch Series 3 remain unavailable to new carrier plan subscribers in China, after having been "abruptly cut off...without explanation" just one week after the device's launch in September. A new report published today by The Wall Street Journal has looked into the LTE setbacks faced by the Apple Watch in the country, which is predicted to face ongoing issues over the next couple of months.

Originally, Apple Watch Series 3 models on launch were supported by the carrier China Unicom, but on September 28 -- almost one week after the September 22 launch -- Unicom cut off new LTE subscriptions for the device. Those who had signed up for a subscription prior to that date remain unaffected, but now anyone trying to sign up for LTE on their Apple Watch are unable to do so. Unicom said on its website that the feature had been available "on a trial basis" and didn't specify when it might resume.

But in China, the feature was abruptly cut off for new subscribers, without explanation, after a brief availability with one telecom company.

Industry analysts say the suspension likely stemmed from Chinese government security concerns to do with tracking users of the device, which uses different technology than standard mobile phones.
On the Apple Watch Series 3 cellular support site, all Chinese carriers -- China Mobile, China Telecom, and China Unicom -- now say "coming later this year." Previously, Unicom specified the following: "Cellular service available only for mobile lines opened in Guangdong, Henan, Hunan, Shanghai, and Tianjin." A few days after September 28, Apple updated the page with the new reference to support later in 2017.

Industry analysts cited "security concerns" likely raised by the government in China related to tracking wearers of Apple's device. Because the Apple Watch uses different technology than standard smartphones, China's strict regulation policies can't simply be outfitted for the new LTE product.

Specifically, analysts believe the problem lies in China's user identification system. When users purchase a smartphone in the country, they register for a SIM card under their real names with a network carrier. But, the Apple Watch contains a tiny embedded SIM card (eSIM), which is placed in the device by Apple, not carriers. Analysts believe this raises questions of "how carriers and regulators can track the device user's identity," because the eSIM "isn't mature enough yet in China."
The benefit of a device carrying an eSIM is that, with software, users can choose a telecom operator and a communications plan. But in China, that new system raises the question of how carriers and regulators can track the device user’s identity.

“The eSIM (system) isn’t mature enough yet in China,” one analyst said. “The government still needs to figure out how they can control the eSIM.”
Now, officials at China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology are said to be studying how to resolve the issue before granting any broad cellular access to the Apple Watch. This process, according to analysts, "could take months."

The Apple Watch LTE roadblock is the latest problem faced by Apple in China, after last year facing the shutdown of the iBooks and iTunes stores due to the release of a controversial independent movie. Over the summer, Apple then removed the majority of VPN apps from the App Store in China, following regulations passed earlier in the year that require such apps to be authorized by the Chinese government.

Related Roundups: Apple Watch, watchOS 4
Tag: China
Buyer's Guide: Apple Watch (Buy Now)

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iPhone Movie ‘The Great Buddha+’ Receives Ten Golden Horse Nominations

Taiwanese movie "The Great Buddha+", a dark comedy shot extensively on an iPhone 6 Plus, has picked up ten nominations in the Golden Horse Awards, including best feature film and best new director (via Variety).

Directed by Huang Hsin-yao and produced and lensed by acclaimed photographer Chung Mung-hong, the black-and-white film follows the voyeuristic antics of a pair of small-town Taiwanese nobodies, highlighting Taiwanese social issues in the process.


The Golden Horse Awards, which will be announced on November 25 in Taipei, are often considered one of the most prestigious film awards for Mandarin-language cinema, with movies from Taiwan, China, and Hong Kong regularly vying for honors.

In the running for the best film prize this year are "The Great Buddha+", "The Bold, The Corrupt, and The Beautiful", "Free and Easy", "Love Education", and "Angels Wear White", which played recently in Venice and Toronto.

Tags: China, Taiwan

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Huawei Ad Teases ‘The Real AI Phone’, Mocks Facial Recognition in Clear Dig at Apple

Chinese mobile maker Huawei has taken to trolling Apple in a new Facebook ad that pokes fun at the iPhone X's neural engine and urges people to wait for "the real AI phone" – a reference to its upcoming flagship smartphone, the Mate 10, set to debut next month.

The short ad takes aim at Apple's Face ID feature on the new iPhone X, and uses a jaunty clown emoji animation on a smartphone display to imply that unlocking the device using facial authentication is prone to failure.


The tagline accompanying the ad reads, "Let's face it, facial recognition isn't for everyone. Unlock the future with #TheRealAIPhone. 16.10.2017". Apple famously had to defend itself against doubts about Face ID after a live onstage demo of the technology appeared to backfire.

As reported previously, Huawei's Mate 10 is the first phone in the company's line-up to feature the Kirin 970 AI mobile chipset, which has a built-in neural processing unit that utilizes machine learning, making it "20 times faster" than a traditional processor, according to the company.

The Kirin 970 is based on the same 10-nanometer technology as Apple's latest A11 Bionic processor found in the iPhone 8 and iPhone X. Like the A11, the new Huawei chip is also said to be more energy efficient, especially when it comes to handling AI-related functions such as image and voice recognition.

Huawei surpassed Apple’s global smartphone sales for the first time in June and July, according to analysis by consulting firm Counterpoint Research, overtaking the U.S. tech giant as the world's second biggest smartphone brand. This appears to have boosted the Chinese mobile maker's confidence that its Mate 10 is the genuine frontrunner to rival Apple's $999 smartphone, particularly in a Chinese market dominated by inexpensive, high-spec alternatives.

Related Roundup: iPhone X
Tags: China, Huawei

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Chinese Firm Didi Now Accepts Apple Pay Across its Ride-Hailing Services

Chinese ride-hailing company Didi has added Apple Pay as a payment option to the full range of its personal mobility services (via TechCrunch).

Apple's mobile payment platform can now be used to fund Didi Express, Didi Luxe, Didi Premier, and ofo, a partner bicycle rental service embedded into the main Didi app.

Image via Technode

Support of the digital wallet adds another Apple feature to the Didi service, with customers already able to use Siri to hail a ride and book one from within the Maps app and on their Apple Watch.

In addition to Apple Pay support, the company is also adding an English language service for Didi Luxe to offer luxury limousine services through the ride-hailing platform. Didi Luxe operates in Beijing and is expected to arrive in Shanghai in the next few months.

Last year, Apple made a much-publicized $1 billion investment in Didi, earning it a place on the company's board, so the gradual inclusion of Apple services is to be expected.

The further support of Apple Pay also comes at a good time for Apple, which is seeking to boost use of the mobile payment platform in China and fend off popular rivals like Alipay and WeChat Pay.

Related Roundup: Apple Pay
Tags: China, Didi Chuxing

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Apple Facing Struggle to Convince Chinese Smartphone Users to Switch Allegiance

Apple is facing an uphill struggle in its attempts to wean Chinese smartphone users off cheaper rival devices in a saturated mobile market, according to a new Bloomberg report.

With Apple gearing up to sell its most ambitious yet most expensive iPhone yet, local competitors like Huawei, Oppo, and Xiaomi are already poised to compete by launching their own less expensive feature-packed devices around Apple's September 12 "iPhone 8" launch date.

Unofficial "iPhone 8" poster spotted in Chinese store (via Slashleaks)
While it sticks to a global template that's served it well, local vendors have become adept at technology design while tailoring phones to local tastes, such as with dual SIM capability. In a show of confidence, Huawei Technologies Co., Xiaomi Corp. and likely Vivo -- far from front-running or avoiding the iPhone the way movie studios juggle summer tentpoles -- are tackling the U.S. company head-on by timing new products around the publicity avalanche sure to engulf Apple’s Sept. 12 launch.

"The challenge comes from Vivo, Oppo and Huawei, they can replace Apple in high-end markets priced around $500, even as Apple remains dominant in the ultra high-end $600 plus segment," said Kiranjeet Kaur, an analyst with industry consultancy IDC. "We don't expect big growth as China's market is now very saturated. The biggest demand for the new iPhone will come from the replacement market."
Part of the problem is that many of the features Apple will debut in its so-called "iPhone 8", such as a full-screen display and wireless charging, are already available in some form to consumers in China, albeit at a much lower price point. Adding to the difficulty is that local vendors have become more skilled at efficient smartphone design and are particularly adept at tailoring smartphones to local preferences.

On the software side, the ubiquitous WeChat app has been described as the iPhone's "toughest rival" in the country. The app offers users an entire ecosystem where they can pay for services, text, call cabs, watch videos, play mobile games, and access cloud-based "mini programs", or apps that don't need to be downloaded to a device to be used. WeChat is said to have captured nearly 35 percent of each user's monthly smartphone usage time, averaging about 1 billion monthly active users in total.

Combined, these market factors make it increasingly difficult for Apple to prise away users from rival devices and platforms, which doesn't bode well in a market which the company has historically struggled to penetrate.

To counter these obstacles, Apple has previewed new features coming in iOS 11 that specifically cater to Chinese customers, such as QR code scanning with the native camera app, a keyboard that makes Chinese characters easier to input, and a new mapping app that shows traffic camera locations.

But with supply of new iPhones expected to be tight in the upcoming months, Apple's Chinese rivals may be seeing their best chance yet to lure buyers away with features aimed at local users, such as dual SIM devices that support multiple phone numbers, high capacity memory and storage, and advanced selfie cameras.

Apple and the iPhone have taken fourth place in China, behind Oppo, Vivo, and Huawei, according to market research firm Warren Captial, while in April Kantar Worldpanel's data noted that iOS dropped to its lowest share of the China smartphone market since 2014.

Canalys estimates Apple's Chinese smartphone shipments will grow by just 1.4 percent to 22.5 million units in the second half of 2017. Meanwhile, the upcoming OLED iPhone's rumored $1,000-plus price tag may end up pushing iOS fans toward local alternatives, "because even well-heeled buyers are price-sensitive", said Jia Mo, an analyst from Canalys.

Related Roundup: iPhone 8
Tags: China, Huawei, Vivo, Oppo

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Apple Facing Struggle to Convince Chinese Smartphone Users to Switch Allegiance

Apple is facing an uphill struggle in its attempts to wean Chinese smartphone users off cheaper rival devices in a saturated mobile market, according to a new Bloomberg report.

With Apple gearing up to sell its most ambitious yet most expensive iPhone yet, local competitors like Huawei, Oppo, and Xiaomi are already poised to compete by launching their own less expensive feature-packed devices around Apple's September 12 "iPhone 8" launch date.

Unofficial "iPhone 8" poster spotted in Chinese store (via Slashleaks)
While it sticks to a global template that's served it well, local vendors have become adept at technology design while tailoring phones to local tastes, such as with dual SIM capability. In a show of confidence, Huawei Technologies Co., Xiaomi Corp. and likely Vivo -- far from front-running or avoiding the iPhone the way movie studios juggle summer tentpoles -- are tackling the U.S. company head-on by timing new products around the publicity avalanche sure to engulf Apple’s Sept. 12 launch.

"The challenge comes from Vivo, Oppo and Huawei, they can replace Apple in high-end markets priced around $500, even as Apple remains dominant in the ultra high-end $600 plus segment," said Kiranjeet Kaur, an analyst with industry consultancy IDC. "We don't expect big growth as China's market is now very saturated. The biggest demand for the new iPhone will come from the replacement market."
Part of the problem is that many of the features Apple will debut in its so-called "iPhone 8", such as a full-screen display and wireless charging, are already available in some form to consumers in China, albeit at a much lower price point. Adding to the difficulty is that local vendors have become more skilled at efficient smartphone design and are particularly adept at tailoring smartphones to local preferences.

On the software side, the ubiquitous WeChat app has been described as the iPhone's "toughest rival" in the country. The app offers users an entire ecosystem where they can pay for services, text, call cabs, watch videos, play mobile games, and access cloud-based "mini programs", or apps that don't need to be downloaded to a device to be used. WeChat is said to have captured nearly 35 percent of each user's monthly smartphone usage time, averaging about 1 billion monthly active users in total.

Combined, these market factors make it increasingly difficult for Apple to prise away users from rival devices and platforms, which doesn't bode well in a market which the company has historically struggled to penetrate.

To counter these obstacles, Apple has previewed new features coming in iOS 11 that specifically cater to Chinese customers, such as QR code scanning with the native camera app, a keyboard that makes Chinese characters easier to input, and a new mapping app that shows traffic camera locations.

But with supply of new iPhones expected to be tight in the upcoming months, Apple's Chinese rivals may be seeing their best chance yet to lure buyers away with features aimed at local users, such as dual SIM devices that support multiple phone numbers, high capacity memory and storage, and advanced selfie cameras.

Apple and the iPhone have taken fourth place in China, behind Oppo, Vivo, and Huawei, according to market research firm Warren Captial, while in April Kantar Worldpanel's data noted that iOS dropped to its lowest share of the China smartphone market since 2014.

Canalys estimates Apple's Chinese smartphone shipments will grow by just 1.4 percent to 22.5 million units in the second half of 2017. Meanwhile, the upcoming OLED iPhone's rumored $1,000-plus price tag may end up pushing iOS fans toward local alternatives, "because even well-heeled buyers are price-sensitive", said Jia Mo, an analyst from Canalys.

Related Roundup: iPhone 8
Tags: China, Huawei, Vivo, Oppo

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Apple Now Accepts WeChat Pay in China

In a statement sent to multiple Chinese media outlets today, Apple said iPhone and iPad users in China can now use WeChat Pay as a payment method for App Store and Apple Music purchases.
"We are glad to offer users in mainland China the option of WeChat Pay for their favorite mobile app or Apple Music products. We continue to be dedicated to provide multiple simple and convenient payment methods for customers within the Apple ecosystem," Apple said in an official statement today.
WeChat Pay is the second most popular mobile payments service in China, with an estimated 39.5 percent market share as of the first quarter of 2017, according to Beijing-based research firm Analysys. By comparison, Apple Pay's market share was estimated to have been just one percent in the first quarter.

WeChat itself is an incredibly popular app in China that allows users to pay for services, chat, hail a cab, watch videos, play mini games, and more. Since the app can be installed on Android, some analysts believe WeChat is a threat to Apple by way of reducing the iPhone's competitive advantage in China.

Nevertheless, Apple CEO Tim Cook recently said WeChat's creator Tencent is one of its most important developers.

"I see Tencent as one of our biggest and best developers," said Cook, speaking on a conference call in early August. "They've done a great job of implementing iOS features in their apps, and we're looking forward to working with them even more to build even greater experiences for our mutual users in China."

Apple has also accepted Alipay, the most popular mobile payment service in China with 53.7 percent market share, since October 2016.

Tags: China, WeChat

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Chinese Developers File Antitrust Complaint Against Apple for ‘Monopolistic Behavior’

A group of 28 developers in China have enlisted a local law firm to file a complaint against Apple in a case alleging that the company engaged in "monopolistic behavior" during some of the actions it has taken to regulate the App Store in China (via The Wall Street Journal).

Lin Wei, an attorney with Dare & Sure Law Firm, filed the complaint this week and targeted Apple for removing apps from the App Store "without detailed explanation and charging excessive fees for in-app purchases." Wei said that Dare & Sure has spoken to different enterprises and received a "very strong response" from each, related to potential antitrust violations with Apple's App Store localization processes.
The complaint accuses Apple of engaging in monopolistic behavior by removing apps from the App Store without detailed explanation and charging excessive fees for in-app purchases. The complaint also alleges Apple doesn’t give details on why apps are removed and puts local developers at a disadvantage by not responding to queries in Chinese.

“There is a lack of transparency in the App Store operation,” Mr. Lin said. “At this stage, we think complaining to the Chinese regulators to get them involved is most ideal.”
According to Reuters, the case dates back to April of this year, when Dare & Sure invited developers to join and ended up with the 28 in question who are now part of the official complaint made this week. The law firm filed the complaint with two organizations that handle antitrust matters: China's State Administration for Industry and Commerce and the National Development and Reform Commission.

The details of what developers and which apps are involved in the complaint were not given, although an Apple spokeswoman mentioned in a brief comment to Reuters that app publishing remains consistent across all countries. There are some exceptions, however, when local laws force Apple to change its policies, most recently when the company pulled the majority of virtual private network apps from the App Store in China because of strict regulations in the country that require VPN apps to be authorized by the government.

In addition, the Apple spokeswoman said that the company is currently working on expanding its local developer relations team to help bolster app development in the country. Apple has faced issues in the past within China, particularly related to controversial content it has sold on the iTunes and iBooks storefronts, but earlier this year Apple CEO Tim Cook reiterated on the company's plans to continue investing in the country, telling local media, "We're here to stay."

Tag: China

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WeChat App in China Described as Apple’s ‘Toughest Rival’ as iPhone 8 Launch Nears

Apple's difficulty in garnering a larger share of the smartphone market in China has been looked at recently by The Wall Street Journal, which described the ubiquitous mobile app WeChat [Direct Link] as the iPhone's "toughest rival" in the country. Citing data from QuestMobile, on average WeChat is said to have captured nearly 35 percent of each user's monthly smartphone usage time, averaging about 1 billion monthly active users in total.

The problem for Apple is that WeChat is an entire ecosystem, with one app allowing users to pay for services, text, call cabs, watch videos, play mobile games, and access cloud-based "mini programs," or apps that don't need to be downloaded to a device to be used. Because all of these WeChat features are universal across smartphone brands, analysts speaking with The Wall Street Journal questioned whether or not Apple is "losing its edge" in China.


Specifically, Apple saw a sales drop in Greater China (including Hong Kong and Taiwan) in the first half of this past fiscal year, with revenue falling 13 percent in the period. According to analysts looking towards the launch of the iPhone 8, that device's success "largely depends on sales in China."
Skeptical investors are asking whether consumers in China will pay $1,000 for a new iPhone, when they spend more than 60% of their phone time inside a system from Tencent or from rivals Baidu Inc. and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. “That’s the question: Is Apple losing its edge?” said Katy Huberty of Morgan Stanley, who remains optimistic about Apple’s prospects in China.
Apple has been making moves recently to focus on China, including naming Isabel Ge Mahe as vice president and managing director of Greater China, who is said to ensure that Apple's products and services appeal specifically to China users. Just this weekend, Apple also removed VPN apps from the China App Store, a move that could potentially help Apple gain favor with Chinese authorities.

Some iOS 11 features -- such as the new QR code scanner in the Camera app -- are also seen as a way for Apple to appeal to users in China who are used to having these abilities on hand with WeChat. If Apple doesn't continue to bolster its software, solely relying on upgraded hardware changes might not be enough to convince iPhone users to stick around, according to analyst Ben Thompson.
Tailoring software for the market could be critical to keeping the iPhone competitive. Otherwise, Mr. Thompson wrote, Apple runs the risk that the phone’s appearance becomes the only thing that matters when Chinese consumers buy a new device.

Such a shift potentially would force Apple to overhaul its entire business model, moving to a system where it releases a new-looking phone annually rather than every other year, as it does currently.
In terms of market share, market research firm Warren Capital noted that Apple and the iPhone have taken fourth place in China, behind Oppo, Vivo, and Huawei. Apple dropped to fifth place in terms of smartphone devices shipped in Q4 2016 (with Xiaomi added into the mix along with the previously mentioned Chinese brands), and in April Kantar Worldpanel's data noted that iOS dropped to its lowest share of the China smartphone market since 2014.

Thompson points to WeChat as a major reason only 50 percent of China-based iPhone owners stayed with Apple when purchasing a new phone, while in other countries that number is closer to 80 percent on average. Since users spend so much time within WeChat and rarely see any other advantages to owning an iPhone, the app "has turned Apple into just another vendor in China," which analysts see as particularly problematic for Apple as the iPhone 8 launch grows nearer.

During a visit to China earlier in the year, Apple CEO Tim Cook told local media outlet Caixin, "We're not just someone who's here to access the market. We've created almost 5 million jobs in China. I'm not sure there are too many companies, domestic or foreign, who can say that." Ultimately, Cook said that Apple isn't afraid of the challenges it faces in China, telling the site that Apple is "here to stay."

Related Roundups: iPhone 7, iPhone 8
Tags: China, WeChat

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Apple Pulls VPN Apps From China App Store As Russia Signs Law Banning Their Use

Russia has banned VPNs and other software that enables users to gain anonymous access to websites. The new law was signed by President Vladimir Putin on Monday and will come into effect on November 1st (via TechCrunch).

Leonid Levin, chairman of the Duma's committee on information policy and technology, was quoted by state-run media as saying that the new law is not targeted at "introducing new bans for law-abiding citizens" but aims to prohibit access to illegal content.

However, privacy advocates see the law as another way for the Russian government to restrict access to political content that it disagrees with. In 2015, it became mandatory for all user data from Russian citizens to be stored in Russian-based servers, and last year another law was passed making it necessary for internet service providers to retain traffic data for up to a year.

Recently the government threatened to block access to the Telegram encrypted messaging platform unless the company that runs the app provides more information about itself.

Elsewhere, virtual private networks took another blow over the weekend, as reports emerged that Apple has removed the majority of VPN apps from the App Store in China, following regulations passed earlier in the year that require such apps to be authorized by the Chinese government.

The action was first revealed by ExpressVPN, a provider based outside of China. The company said in a blog post that "all major VPN apps" including its own had been removed from the App Store. It also shared a note from Apple explaining that its app was removed because "it includes content that is illegal in China".
"We're disappointed in this development, as it represents the most drastic measure the Chinese government has taken to block the use of VPNs to date, and we are troubled to see Apple aiding China's censorship efforts. ExpressVPN strongly condemns these measures, which threaten free speech and civil liberties," ExpressVPN wrote on its blog.
A few hours later, Apple shared a statement with TechCrunch explaining its decision to pull the apps from its App Store in China:
Earlier this year China’s MIIT announced that all developers offering VPNs must obtain a license from the government. We have been required to remove some VPN apps in China that do not meet the new regulations. These apps remain available in all other markets where they do business.
Earlier this month, China reportedly started blocking some features of the WhatsApp messaging service, as authorities continued to tighten controls over the country's internet.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Tags: China, Russia, VPN

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