The slow-moving iPhone 5C just got even cheaper—at least in China

Everyone loves a discount.
Everyone loves a discount.
Image: AP Photo/Andy Wong
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Despite all the talk about the iPhone 5C being Apple’s great multi-hued hope, reports so far indicate that the marginally more expensive iPhone 5S is outselling it by a factor of four to one. British operators report a glut of the cheaper phones (while worrying about a shortage of the fancier ones), and numbers from China and Australia indicate that demand for the 5C in those countries is even lower than it is globally.

It is little wonder then that Chinese retailers have taken to knocking down the price on the cheaper model. Online resellers are now offering the phone at 3699 yuan ($604), a hefty mark down from the listed price of 4888 yuan, reports the Chinese business publication Caijing. (That is still more expensive than in the US, where the phone retails for $550 without a contract.) Apple reported on Monday that it had sold 9 million iPhone 5S and 5C models combined in the first three days of its release. Analysts have been skeptical, attributing a large portion of sales to stock sold to shops but not to consumers.

Still, Apple has much to look forward to. The company has yet to announce a widely-expected deal with China Mobile, the largest mobile operator in the world with some 740 million subscribers. First expected at the same time as the release of the new phones, an announcement of the tie-up will now probably be made when China Mobile formally rolls out a 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) mobile network, a standard that allows data to be transferred at speeds an order of magnitude faster than 3G networks. The minister of industry and information technology, Miao Wei, confirmed yesterday that licenses for 4G will be issued before this year is up.

Once that happens, Apple will more than double its share of the Chinese smartphone market, according to market research firm IDC, more than making up for its losses this year.

China smartphone market share 2012-2017
China smartphone market share 2012-2017
Image: IDC