2021 may go down in history as the year that Apple cemented its brand among Chinese consumers. Back in February, Apple enjoyed a stellar quarter in China with sales soaring 57% to $21 billion as Chinese consumers gobbled up the iPhone 12. CNN was quick to ask if the success in China could continue, but Apple followed up with its iPhone 13, which was largely responsible for driving a massive 83% uptick in sales in China year-over-year during the fourth quarter.
Notably, the growth in China outpaced Apple’s 29% total sales increase during the period, which was impacted by the ongoing global chip shortage. Some now believe that Apple is the top smartphone maker in China, although that badge has been passed around among manufacturers since the decline of Huawei.
What is clear, however, is that the iPhone is now more popular among Chinese consumers than ever before. According to Interpret’s New Media Measure: Global Profiles™, 40% of consumers from Tier 1/2/3 markets in China now own an iPhone (up from 30% in 2020). Moreover, we can see dramatic increases among various age brackets, especially among Millennials, which spiked from 32% to 51% over the past 12 months.
But what’s driving the adoption now? Aside from the iPhone 13’s perceived appeal, Huawei was essentially the only high-end competitor in China (Samsung hasn’t established itself yet due to ongoing political friction between China and South Korea). Consumers are also enjoying increased spending power – while iPhone’s pricing hasn’t moved much in China, the average consumer’s salary has doubled or even tripled from five years ago.
Finally, it’s worth noting that Apple has remained low-key as an American company in the Chinese market, whereas major American brands like Nike or Disney have encountered some political backlash. In fact, Apple went so far as to build a data storage center (which doesn’t happen in any other countries) to please Beijing who cares a lot about information/data sovereignty, censorship mechanics built into the phone, etc. Those efforts demonstrate goodwill towards the Chinese government as well as patriotic consumers.