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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Vivo Unveils Screen-Embedded Fingerprint Sensor Technology at MWC2017 Shanghai

As predicted, Vivo showcased fingerprint sensor technology embedded in a smartphone screen on Wednesday at the Mobile World Congress 2017 in Shanghai. The 'Under Display Fingerprint Scanning Solution' is based on Qualcomm technology and was demonstrated running on prototype devices based on the existing Vivo Xplay 6 phone.

Vivo claimed the under-display fingerprint solution, which doesn't require a physical button for the sensor, is "the first to be demonstrated by a smartphone manufacturer". The technology enables the use of a "true full-screen display and an integrated unibody and mechanical waterproofing design", said the company.

"In Vivo's R&D plan, fingerprint scanning will not be carried out by an independent button or region. It will be realised more subtly under the screen, behind the metal shell, or even in the frame.

"Based on ultrasonic technology, the fingerprint recognition technology can be further expanded to realize user interaction, such as gesture recognition, security verification and other fields, which will greatly enhance user experience."
Vivo told Engadget that while the fingerprint scanning function was limited to a small region on the prototype devices, in theory the same sensing technology could be applied across the entire screen, but that it would significantly increase production cost.

Following the unveiling, Qualcomm issued a press release announcing the development of new fingerprint scanners that work through displays, thick glass, and metal, with underwater operation, heartbeat and blood flow detection.
"We are excited to announce Qualcomm Fingerprint Sensors because they can be designed to support sleeker, cutting-edge form factors, unique mobile authentication experiences, and enhanced security authentication," said Seshu Madhavapeddy, vice president, product management, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. "This provides OEMs and operators with the ability to offer truly distinct, differentiated devices with added value on truly groundbreaking new devices."
Qualcomm claimed the technology was capable of scanning through OLED display stacks "of up to 1200um", and was the first commercially announced to scan through up to 800 µm of cover glass and up to 650 µm of aluminum, an improvement over the previous generation's 400 µm capability for glass or metal. The company said it had designed the technology as an integrated solution with Qualcomm Snapdragon mobile platforms, and as standalone sensors that can be used with other non-Snapdragon platforms.


Qualcomm said the fingerprint sensors for glass and metal will be available to OEMs this month and should arrive in commercial devices in the first half of 2018. The sensors for displays are expected to be available to OEMs for evaluation in the fourth quarter of 2017.

Apple's upcoming "iPhone 8" is rumored to include a fingerprint-sensing display, but the company has reportedly faced significant challenges in its efforts to develop the technology for its radically redesigned flagship device, due to release in the fall.

Apple is currently in a major legal battle with Qualcomm over its LTE modems, so it seems unlikely the company would consider offering its technology for inclusion in future iPhones. However, the announcement at least demonstrates that the technology is viable, which lends further credence to reports that Apple has perfected its own screen-embedded fingerprint recognition solution. The technology will give Apple's OLED iPhone a significant advantage over its biggest rival, Samsung, which is expected to stick with a rear fingerprint scanner for this year's Galaxy Note 8.

Apple is expected to unveil the iPhone 8 and more traditional "iPhone 7s" and "iPhone 7s Plus" models around the usual September timeframe for iPhone updates, although rumors have suggested supplies of the more expensive OLED handset could be tight for up to several months after the official debut.

Related Roundup: iPhone 8
Tags: Qualcomm, MWC17, Vivo

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Vivo Could Announce First Smartphone With Fingerprint Sensor Embedded in Display at MWC2017 Shanghai

Chinese mobile maker Vivo could be set to beat both Apple and Samsung to the punch by announcing the first smartphone with a fingerprint sensor embedded in the screen, if an official company Mobile World Congress teaser is anything to go by.

Last week a video began making the rounds online that purported to show a Vivo smartphone being unlocked using a fingerprint sensor integrated into the display. Doubts were soon cast on the video's authenticity, however yesterday the company shared an official teaser image on Twitter appearing to hint at an imminent fingerprint sensor reveal at MWC2017 Shanghai, which starts on June 28.


The teaser image shows the outline of what appears to be a human digit complete with fingerprint passing through a smartphone-like profile, accompanied by the phrase "Unlock the Future", apparently implying a fingerprint-based unlocking mechanism embedded in the display of an upcoming Vivo phone.

As regular MacRumors readers will know, Apple is expected to include a fingerprint-sensing display in this year's "iPhone 8", which is due in September, but the company was said to have faced significant technological hurdles before it reportedly finalized a practical solution last month.

Samsung, for its own part, chose to forego the opportunity to announce the first phone with a screen-embedded fingerprint sensor when it launched the Galaxy S8 in March, with the sensor instead relocated to the back of the handset, alongside the camera lens. The controversial decision to move the sensor to the rear to make way for a larger display was made because the company could not meet the challenges involved in embedding the sensor tech in an OLED screen in time for the S8 launch.

The idea that Vivo could be the first to bring fingerprint sensing screens to consumer phones might seem like a stretch, but the company has been willing to take risks in the past and actually has a decent track record for market firsts. In 2013, for example, it released the world's first "2K" resolution phone – the Xplay3s – featuring a 2560 × 1440 resolution and 490ppi pixel density screen. With the release of the Xplay5, the company also became the first mobile maker to release a smartphone with 6GB of RAM.

Regardless, announcing the first fingerprint-aware display is a different prospect altogether and would be some feat for Vivo, which holds a 6.8 percent market share in worldwide smartphone sales, behind Chinese rivals Huawei and Oppo. By contrast, Apple and Samsung command a 13.7 percent and 20.7 percent market share, respectively, according to first quarter 2017 figures from Gartner.

Stay tuned to MacRumors for updates and other related news from the Mobile World Congress 2017 in Shanghai, which begins on Wednesday, June 28.

Related Roundup: iPhone 8
Tags: Vivo, MWCS17

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