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Apple's newest iPhones sport faster processors, more cameras, and a lower price in the base models. But don't count on those features to revive the company's fortunes in the all-important China market, where customers don't want to wait for 5G capability and already can choose from a wide array of cheaper, feature-packed handsets offered by Asian rivals.
The iPhone 11 launched Tuesday for about $50 less than last year's base XR model. Many analysts interpreted the reduced price—the first time Apple has lowered the cost of a new generation of iPhones—as a deliberate effort to win back customers in China, where Apple has been losing market share to Huawei Technologies.
Until last year, Apple reigned supreme in China's premium smartphone market. As the Nikkei Asia Review notes, in the first quarter of last year, iPhones accounted for over 80% of handsets sold in China in the $600-$800 price bracket. A year later, Apple's share plunged to 37%. During that same period, Huawei's market share soared to 48%, a five-fold increase.
That's bad news for Apple, which counts on China for 17% of its global sales.
Patriotism may account for some of Huawei's popularity, as the Shenzhen-based telecommunications giant has been caught in the crossfire of the U.S.-China trade war. But many Chinese buyers insist Apple's domestic rivals just offer better value.
And little wonder. As CNBC points out, Apple still expects consumers in China to pay a 10% to 23% price premium compared to U.S. consumers for the new generation of iPhones.
Meanwhile 5G functionality (and Apple's lack of same) is a big deal in China. In the United States, many reviews of the new iPhones pooh-poohed the fact that this year's iPhones didn't offer 5G. Even in America's largest cities, 5G won't be widely available until next year at the earliest and Apple has never been on the cutting edge of new network technologies, they noted.
That sort of complacence doesn't cut it with consumers in China, where the big three telecom providers are expected to roll out 5G networks in most major cities by the end of this year. Huawei unveiled its 5G smartphone in August. Xiaomi is expected to launch a 5G phone soon. And South Korea's Samsung Electronics offered a 5G phone months ago.
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Hit me with the obvious stick. With its chance of going public slipping, the We Company on Friday announced a series of changes to its governance that should have been in place in the first place, like having its board of directors pick any new CEO and not having members of the family of current CEO Adam Neumann on said board. Neumann also generously agreed to give to the company any profits from his real estate deals with the company. I think we can now officially downgrade We’s IPO filing from “bananas” to “somewhat grapefruity.” Elsewhere on Wall Street, online protection outfit Cloudflare priced its IPO at $15 per share, giving it a valuation of $4.4 billion, more than double its last private value.
You cannot hide, I see you. Wasn’t I just complaining yesterday about techbros obsession with naming their companies after LOTR bits? Another one is in the news today. Peter Thiel’s Mithril Capital (“beaten like copper, polished like glass, harder than steel”) is under investigation by the FBI for possible financial misconduct. In less exciting investigatory news, Google received subpoenas for information about its ad business from the big group of AGs that launched an antitrust probe this week.
He’s your dog, Charlie Brown. Kicking off the next wave of the streaming wars, Walt Disney opened its Disney+ service for a free trial run in the Netherlands on Thursday. Dutch viewers who like what they see will be converted to paying customers when the service goes live globally on November 12. Apple plans to open Apple TV+ on November 1 and has posted trailers for all of its initial series, including Snoopy in Space (really, Apple, Snoopy for streaming but NOT FOR A WATCH FACE? You’re killing me.)
Major Tom to ground control. Elon Musk’s other startup, Space X, asked regulators for permission to expand the orbital spacing of its Starlink broadband service’s satellites. The move would allow Space X to start serving the Internet down from space to parts of the southern United States by the end of next year. Space X says it already will be able to provide service next year to northern states without any modification.
From the source. If you’re a Google News reader, you could be in for big changes. Google announced on Thursday a shift in its ranking and selection system to highlight more original reporting.
Au petit bonheur la chance. France has no interest in Facebook and its partners developing their own currency. French finance minister Bruno Le Maire said Thursday he’d block the project: “We cannot authorize the development of Libra on European soil.”
Piling on. Those Cryptokitties keep paying off. Remember back in 2017 when people got obsessed with the virtual pets that could be traded via the Ethereum blockchain? Now the developer behind the game, Dapper Labs, has raised $11 million of venture capital for a new blockchain project.
FOR YOUR WEEKEND READING PLEASURE
A few longer reads that I came across this week that may be appealing for your weekend reading pleasure:
The new battle in Hong Kong isn’t on the streets; it’s in the apps (Technology Review)
Activists are using Airdrop, livestreams, and innovative maps to keep their protest alive. But the authorities have plenty of tech of their own.
The Best Note-Taking Apps (Lifehacker)
I had no idea so many different note-taking apps existed. While that meant I had a ton of new software I had to try, the good news is we now have a solid roster of great apps you can use to create a reminder, jot down ideas, or keep track of checklists.
The Book of Prince (The New Yorker)
Prince had grand plans for his autobiography, but only a few months to live.
The World According to David Hockney (WSJ Magazine)
The 82-year-old artist’s monumental new work, a meditation on the view from his Normandy home, demonstrates his singular way of seeing things.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Almost 150 CEOs signed a letter to Congress on Thursday asking lawmakers to address the crisis of gun violence. “We, as CEOs, have an obligation to get involved in issues that impact our employees, our consumers, and our communities,” Levis boss Chip Bergh explained. But not all bosses agreed. No major tech company CEO, from Apple’s Tim Cook to Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, signed. New York Times reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin dug into the reasons for some of the no shows:
Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook did not sign, although he told colleagues and peers that he agreed with stricter background checks, two people involved in the conversation said. With Facebook under federal scrutiny — and contending with a drumbeat of criticism from Republicans who contend that the company’s platform silences conservative voices — Mr. Zuckerberg has decided that activism on this issue would only intensify the spotlight on the company, these people said…Similar concerns were raised by the leadership at Google, whose YouTube unit was the site of a shooting last year. Google recently announced an internal policy that would make it hard for the company to consider signing the letter.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Google Makes It Easier to Find Addiction Recovery Resources By Alyssa Newcomb
Walmart Takes Its Amazon Prime Competitor Nationwide By Chris Morris
Nintendo Unveils New Fitness Game: ‘Ring Fit Adventure.’ Here’s What It’s Like By Lisa Marie Segarra
BEFORE YOU GO
The people who give out the Emmy awards only recently (aka in 2017) decided to start giving an trophy for one of the coolest, hardest, and most important jobs on any television series: the music supervisor. Fortune talked to this year’s nominees–it’s a great read–to learn that sometimes dealing with famous rock stars sucks. “I honestly never felt as much like I wanted to stop being a music supervisor than when we were trying to clear ABBA,” former DJ Thomas Golubić, nominated for his work on Better Call Saul, says.