No crowds as Apple’s iPhone 11 hits stores in China

Apple has been losing ground to competitors with cheaper and feature-packed handsets in recent years. (Reuters)
Updated 20 September 2019

No crowds as Apple’s iPhone 11 hits stores in China

  • The sales performance of the US tech giant’s latest line-up is being closely watched in the world’s largest smartphone market
  • Apple has been losing ground to competitors with cheaper and feature-packed handsets in recent years

BEIJING/SHANGHAI: Apple’s latest iPhone 11 range hit stores in China on Friday, with short queues of die-hard fans contrasting with the hundreds who camped out ahead of some previous launches.
The sales performance of the US tech giant’s latest line-up is being closely watched in the world’s largest smartphone market, where Apple has been losing ground to competitors with cheaper and feature-packed handsets in recent years.
The queues at the Shanghai and Beijing stores, which combined added up to few dozen customers, were in sharp contrast to previous years, when hundreds used to wait for hours outside Apple’s shops to be the first to grab its latest offerings.
But much of the fanfare in China has moved online where the pre-sales for iPhone 11, priced between $699 and $1,099, started last week.
Analysts said they had gotten off to a better start than the last cycle a year ago. Chinese e-commerce site JD.com said day one pre-sales for the iPhone 11 series were up 480 percent versus comparable sales for the iPhone XR last year.
Among customers that took to a store in Beijing on Friday to make a purchase in person was a programmer who only gave his surname as Liu, who said he had a model from every Apple series since the 3G range.
He said he was particularly attracted to the more expensive iPhone 11 Pro, which has three cameras on the back. “When it comes to taking photos, it’s better for night shots and the image is clearer,” he told Reuters.
Other customers, however, said that they were concerned that the range was not enabled for fifth-generation networks, putting them behind 5G models already released by China’s Huawei Technologies and smaller rival Vivo, and expressed hopes that Apple could make it happen for its next line-up.
“I think by the end of next year, especially in big cities like Beijing, 5G will be commonplace,” said civil servant Liu Liu. “If they don’t research this then they’ll lag way behind.”
The in-store launch of the iPhone 11 in China came a day after Chinese smartphone maker Huawei unveiled new smartphones which it said were more compact, with more sensitive cameras and wraparound screens more vivid than those of the latest iPhone, though it played down concerns about the lack of access to Google’s popular apps.
Huawei has experienced a surge in support from Chinese consumers after the brand was caught up in a trade war between the United States and China, which has in turn eaten into Apple’s market share in the country.


Japan’s Uniqlo pulls ad after South Korean fury

Updated 21 October 2019

Japan’s Uniqlo pulls ad after South Korean fury

  • South Korean and Japanese relationship is deeply strained by the legacy of Tokyo’s 20th-century expansionism
  • Seoul and Tokyo are currently locked in a bitter trade and diplomatic row stemming from historical disputes
SEOUL: Japanese retail giant Uniqlo has pulled a commercial featuring a 98-year-old US fashion figure from South Korean screens, it said Monday after it was accused of whitewashing colonial history.
South Korea and Japan are both US allies, democracies and market economies faced with an overbearing China and nuclear-armed North Korea, but their relationship is deeply strained by the legacy of Tokyo’s 20th-century expansionism.
The latest example is an advert for Uniqlo fleeces showing elderly fashion celebrity Iris Apfel chatting with designer Kheris Rogers, 85 years her junior.
The last line has the white-haired Apfel, asked how she used to dress as a teenager, innocuously responding: “Oh my God. I can’t remember that far back.”
But Uniqlo’s Korean arm subtitled its version of the ad slightly differently, reading: “I can’t remember things that happened more than 80 years ago.”
That would put the moment as 1939, toward the end of Japan’s brutal colonial rule over the Korean peninsula, where the period is still bitterly resented, and some South Koreans reacted furiously.
“A nation that forgets history has no future. We can’t forget what happened 80 years ago that Uniqlo made fun of,” commented one Internet user on Naver, the country’s largest portal.
The phrase “Uniqlo, comfort women,” in reference to women forced to become sex slaves to Japanese troops during the Second World War, was among the most searched terms on Naver at the weekend, and demonstrators protested outside Uniqlo shops on Monday.
Seoul and Tokyo are currently locked in a bitter trade and diplomatic row stemming from historical disputes, and South Korean consumers have mounted boycotts of Japanese products.
Uniqlo — which has 186 stores in South Korea — has itself been one of the highest-profile targets, while Japanese carmakers’ sales dropped nearly 60 percent year-on-year in September.
The company denied the allegations in a statement, saying the text was altered to highlight the age gap between the individuals and show that its fleeces were for people “across generations.”
“The ad had no intention whatsoever to imply anything” about colonial rule, a Uniqlo representative said on Monday, adding the firm had withdrawn the ad in an effort at damage control.
Analysts said the controversy demonstrated the politicization of the neighbors’ complex history.
The reaction was excessive, said Kim Sung-han, a former foreign affairs vice minister who teaches at Korea University, involving a “jump in logic” that “assumes everything Uniqlo does is political as a Japanese company.”
“I don’t see how her remark could be linked to the comfort women issue,” he added. “This is overly sensitive.”