Apple’s iPhone 8 smartphone sees muted launch in Asia

Customers look at Apple’s new iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus after it goes on sale at an Apple Store in Shanghai. (Reuters)
Updated 22 September 2017
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Apple’s iPhone 8 smartphone sees muted launch in Asia

SYDNEY/TOKYO: Apple Inc’s launch of iPhone 8 kicked off in a less lively mood in Asia, versus previous debuts, as fans held out for the premium iPhone X due out in early November.
Hundreds of people usually gather at Apple’s Sydney city store with queues winding down the town’s main street, George Street, when there is a new product release. But there were fewer than 30 people lining up before the store opened on Friday, according to a Reuters witness.
While the number of people queuing up outside Apple stores have dropped over the years with many opting for online purchases, the weak turnout for the latest iPhone has partly been due to poor reviews.
Mazen Kourouche, who was first in queue after lining up 11 days outside the store so he could buy and review the product on YouTube, said there were modest refinements.
“(It) is pretty similar to the iPhone 7 but it shoots 4k 60 frames per second and it’s got a new glass back instead of the metal which is apparently more durable,” he told Reuters. “There aren’t too many new features to this one.”
In China, a loyal Apple customer said the improved camera was one of the reasons she purchased the new device.
“I waited until midnight to watch the launch event with my boyfriend to learn what’s new with this iPhone. Its photograph function is pretty good. So I think I must change with no hesitation,” said 29-year-old consumer Ta Na in Shanghai.
Mentions of iPhone 8 and iPhone X on popular Chinese social media platform Weibo, an indicator of consumer interest, were less than levels seen before the previous two launches.
Poor reviews of the iPhone 8, which comes 10 years after Apple released the first version of the revolutionary phone, drove down shares of the company to near two-month lows of $152.75 (SR 572.81) on Thursday, as investors worried pre-orders for the device had come in well below previous launches.
The iPhone 8 will only cater to those who want a new version but do not want to pay a hefty $999 for the iPhone X, said iTWire.com’s technology editor Alex Zaharov-Reutt, who did not line up for the launch.
The iPhone X is a glass and stainless steel device with an edge-to-edge display that Chief Executive Tim Cook has called “the biggest leap forward since the original iPhone”.
“I think it’ll be more lively with more people with the iPhone X,” said Ray Yokoyama, after buying an iPhone 8 in Tokyo.


China tariff threat could be a boon for Gulf oil exports

Updated 33 min 5 sec ago
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China tariff threat could be a boon for Gulf oil exports

  • Tariffs proposed for crude oil, coal and other energy projects.
  • China is the largest Asian customer for US crude.

LONDON: Gulf oil producers may benefit from China’s threat to impose import tariffs on US crude and other energy products, as key exporters meet to discuss production increases later this week.

China, one of the largest buyers of US crude oil surprised many late last week when it announced plans to tax such imports, as part of retaliatory measures following the decision by US President Donald Trump to impose $50 billion worth of tariffs on a variety of US goods.

The announcement comes as China looks for a different oil supply mix ahead of likely reductions in its imports from Venezuela and Iran.

Carsten Fritsch, a commodities analyst with Commerzbank, said that while China’s reduction of imports of Iranian crude should not be overestimated, the decline of production from Venezuela left the country with no choice but to seek alternative sources of oil.

“The US could could have been an alternative supplier but of course that won’t be the case if a 25 percent import tariff comes into effect,” Fritsch told Arab News.

“Some of the Arabian Gulf countries might have an advantage in plugging the gap, given the similarity of the crude types, and the same shipping lanes that would be used.”

China is currently the largest Asian customer for US crude; imports rose to 3.89 million metric tons in the first quarter of the year, compared with just 443,000 metric tons for the year ago period, according to figures from S&P Global Platts, with the US’s market share rising to 3.5 percent at the end of March.

American crude has proved competitive for China; the US benchmark WTI averaged a $1.83 per barrel discount to oil from the North Sea Forties on a delivered basis into China in May, and a 74 cents per barrel discount to Abu Dhabi’s Murban crude, according to S&P Global Platts calculations.

But China is likely to find it easier to replace US crude imports than US producers will to get new customers, according to Thomson Reuters commentator Clyde Russell.

“It’s not hard to imagine a scenario in which China encourages Saudi Arabia and Russia, the world’s top oil exporters and partners in the agreement to restrict output, to pump more crude,” said Russell yesterday.

“China would then buy the additional Saudi and Russian output, using it to replace cargoes from the US, and even from Iran, assuming the renewed US sanctions against Iran force Beijing to curtail imports.”

The prospect of restrictions on US oil come ahead of a meeting of OPEC and other oil producers in Vienna later this week, with an increase in oil production seen as increasingly likely following the eradication of oversupply and the recovery of prices.

Oil prices were up around 1.5 percent yesterday afternoon, on reports from Bloomberg that producers were considering increasing output by between 300-600,000 barrels per day, compared with a 1.5 million barrel per day initially sought by Russia.

In addition to tariffs on oil, China has also threatened imports on other energy sources, notably coal, in a bid to hurt Trump politically as well as economically.

“Coal miners count among Trump’s most vocal backers, but if China does stop buying US coking coal, it may force producers to accept lower prices from other buyers in order to move cargoes,” said Russell.

“The Chinese have probably calculated that they can take the pain from a trade conflict longer than Trump can, or at least longer than the US. economy, companies and workers will be prepared to tolerate.”