Apple could have a surprising trick up its sleeve to save the iPhone in China.
New reports claim the company is working on a smartphone exclusively for the Chinese market. The device is expected to be significantly more affordable and will include an under-display fingerprint scanner in place of Face ID.
The iPhone lineup is now more expensive than ever, which makes it an even tougher sell in emerging markets like China, where the average consumer currently spends well under $400 on a new phone.
Apple’s answer to this has been to market older devices at a reduced cost, but that approach is widely considered to be failing. During the first quarter of 2019, just 6.5 million iPhone units were sold in China — a decline of 30% from the first quarter of 2018.
Apple is now rumored to be working on an entirely new solution.
Designed by Apple. Sold only in China.
Chinese news outlets are reporting that a new iPhone is on its way — one that will be exclusive to China. The “tailored iPhone” will be a more affordable device designed to boost sales and save Apple’s smartphone business locally.
To save on production costs and keep prices low, the device is expected to come with a fingerprint scanner as opposed to Face ID. However, it won’t be baked into a Home button like Touch ID.
Instead, this new iPhone will reportedly be Apple’s first with an under-display fingerprint scanner — like those now offered by Samsung, Huawei, and others. This will allow for an edge-to-edge screen with narrow bezels.
Fingerprint scanners are cheaper than ever
Fingerprint scanners are now more affordable than ever. It’s one of the reasons why so many budget handset makers are now using them, and why they’ve already become so popular in China and other emerging markets.
Apple was considered to be done with fingerprint scanners — at least where the iPhone is concerned. But the company has explored new fingerprint-scanning solutions, such as sensors baked into microLED displays.
In addition, Barclays analysts claimed in May that Apple could deliver new handsets with acoustic fingerprint-scanning technology that would allow for fullscreen Touch ID in 2020.
Apple’s mission to build iPhone in China
If the latest claims are accurate — and that’s a big if — it would be the first time Apple has ever delivered a brand new iPhone exclusively for certain markets. It’s a move most Apple watchers wouldn’t have anticipated.
But Apple certainly needs to take more drastic steps to make the iPhone a success in emerging markets. CEO Tim Cook has continually stressed the importance of China in particular to Apple’s smartphone business.