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March iPhone discounts in China may have saved Apple's quarter

iPhone doing well in China despite shrinking market

After a rough start to 2024, promotions on the iPhone appears to have buoyed Apple in China, according to official government data.

Apple and its resellers cut prices in the end of February. This move may have preserved Apple's quarter, and allowed Tim Cook to say that Mainland China sales were only down 8% versus the 25% that analysts feared.

The China Academy of Information and Communications Technology publishes a monthly report, detailing the financial aspects of the smartphone industry in China. In the latest report, cited on Wednesday morning by Bloomberg foreign-branded smartphone sales surged to 3.75 million units, which is up about 12% year-over year.

The same data notes that foreign iPhone shipments are still down on the year. The report claims that non-China companies sold 27% fewer devices overall in the quarter, inclusive of the discount.

It's not just Apple in the report, other giants like Samsung are also included. However, the vast majority of the devices sold by companies outside of China are from Apple.

China accounts for between 17% and 20% of Apple's iPhone sales every quarter with the figure varying on where your data comes from.

Apple earned $90.8 billion in the March quarter, beating Wall Street estimates. The company saw an 8% sales drop year-over-year in China, but despite the drop, it was less severe than initially expected.

The iPhone has struggled to see much growth in China. Factors at play include increased competition from premium smartphone vendors, a difficult compare from the year-ago quarter, and an off-again on-again iPhone ban in government buildings and large businesses.

Cook remains bullish on Apple's prospects in the country.

"I feel great that in an extraordinary competitive environment that we grew iPhone sales in mainland China last quarter," Cook said during the most recent Apple earnings report. "That may come as a surprise to some people. And so I feel good about China, I think more about long term than I do the next week or so."

Also during the earnings call, Cook shared that the best selling smartphone in urban China was the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro Max.