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Asia gives iPhone 7 Subdued Welcome Even as Fans Cheer

Asia gives iPhone 7 Subdued Welcome Even as Fans Cheer
Brandishing their purchases, flanked by applauding sales staff, the first customers worldwide to snap the new iPhone 7 off the shelves, cheered as they left stores as Apple Inc fans from Sydney to Shanghai joined in the fanfare.
However the crowds of enthusiasts and overnight campers were smaller than in past years underneath the usual fanfare. After the larger version and models with the new jet-black color sold out, some customers complained.
While in Chinese stores only those who had ordered in advance were queuing to collect, online pre-ordering has made queues unnecessary for all but diehard fans.
Yet, as cheaper local brands amp up their features, design and marketing, in markets like China, online interest in the new phone has also been muted compared to past launches.
While the slower-burn 6S contributed to Apple's first global revenue drop in over a decade earlier this year, the success of the iPhone 6 in China drove sales last year and hence the sales in China will be the acid test for Apple's year ahead.
On Chinese microblog Weibo, compared to when the iPhone 6 debuted in 2014, chatter about the iPhone 7 launch has been far more muted. The new phone lagging both the iPhone 6 and iPhone 5, showed an index of searches on Baidu Inc, China's most popular search engine.
While Apple’s market share has fallen to around 7.8 percent in Greater China, placing it fifth behind local rivals Huawei, OPPO and Vivo, its Greater China sales dropped by a third in April-June, albeit after more than doubling a year earlier.
Citing that the new iPhone has few major changes to win over fickle shoppers and the firm's marketing has been generic, consumers and analysts say that Apple has been slower to adapt.
"From Steve Jobs to Tim Cook, Apple has never had any marketing strategy tailor-made for China. Apple risks losing out more if it does not better cater to local demands in its marketing as well as product design," said Zhou Zhanggui, a Beijing-based strategic consultant.
But Apple has not lost its shine for all customers.
Two nights were spent at camping  outside the Sydney Apple store by Marcus Barsoum, a 16-year-old who described himself as a "diehard Apple fan". To be the first customers globally to own iPhone 7s, some 200 people were gathered in light rain by the morning.
Amidst the loud cheering from the Apple staff, a very weary but elated Barsoum charged into the store at 8 a.m. to make the purchase for which he had been camping for two days. Although he had wanted a larger 7 plus in jet black, he did not seem disappointed when he emerged with a matte black iPhone 7.
"It feels great to be the first in the world to have the iPhone 7," he said. "It was 100 percent worth it."

Christopher J. Mitchell

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