iPhone’s seesaw year in China continues as sales fell nearly 8% in May


iPhone sales are finally rebounding in China
iPhone sales fluctuate wildly in China in 2020.
Photo: Tim Cook/Weibo

The iPhone’s seesaw year in China continued in May as sales declined 7.7% from the previous month, CNBC reports. It suggests that the period of pent-up demand for the iPhone following lockdown may have worn off already. In total, Apple reportedly sold 3.6 million iPhones in China, down from 3.9 million one month earlier.

By comparison, Apple sales rose by a massive 160% month-on-month in April, after lockdown conditions in China eased up and Apple Stores were reopened. In February, iPhone sales in China declined by 60% as COVID-19 swept the country and hurt both supply and demand for Apple’s handsets.

The monthly fluctuations don’t seem like they’re over, either. The same CNBC report, published Tuesday, said that sell-in shipments for the iPhone fell 25% month-on-month to just over 2 million in May. Sell-in numbers refer to the number of iPhones that Apple sells to retail partners. It’s a way of gauging where demand is likely headed.

Reasons to be optimistic about iPhone in China

Despite the uncertainty, there are still reasons to be optimistic. For one thing, iPhone sales don’t happen in a vacuum. They have to be looked at in the wider context of other smartphone sales — which declined almost 20% in May. This means that the iPhone, which appeals to higher earners, fared better than some. Given the uncertainty about jobs and the economy, that makes a lot of sense. Apple also released the 2020 iPhone SE in mid-April. Since a new iPhone will often be snapped up by early adopters right away, this could explain the extra purchases.

An important metric to take from this is that, despite the challenging circumstances of 2020, Apple is headed in the right direction in China. Even the dip in sales last month is higher than the 3.05 million iPhone units Apple sold in China in May 2019.

“Apple’s growth in 2020 is staggering considering that these numbers include COVID-19 time,” Jacob Cooke, CEO of WPIC, a company that helps foreign brands sell in China, told CNBC. “Ultimately, it’s clear that Apple is a resilient company, and we’re keeping an eye on them to continue to grow over the back half of 2020.”