After news that the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus would be released late in China, the country’s main carriers, surprised and disappointed, took down their splashy pre-order advertisements. Popular Chinese bloggers in the tech community conjectured that the delay is punishment for leaked details about the new model from factories in China. Others blamed discrimination. One user wrote on Weibo, “They obviously look down on China. Let’s all boycott Apple.”
But the more likely, and worrying, reason is resistance from Beijing. According to an industry insider quoted by Chinese business publication 21st Century Business Herald, regulators have yet to approve permits for selling the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. According to a Sina Tech reporter, Apple met with “resistance” from China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.
Historically, Apple’s products have launched in China several months after other major markets because of the process of undergoing regulatory checks, but last year Apple managed to release the iPhone 5s in China within a day of its release in the US. Apple CEO Tim Cook has said that the company had been working with Chinese regulators for years to resolve this issue.
For Apple, the worst case scenario would be that it is falling out of favor with Chinese authorities, just as homegrown Chinese handset makers like Xiaomi are winning market share—especially since China has emerged as the world’s largest smartphone market. Last year, state media launched two weeks of attacks on Apple for offering Chinese customers inferior warranty and repair services until the company issued a lengthy and contrite apology. This year, state media have gone on the attack again and accused the company of spying on Chinese citizens through the iPhone’s location-tracking functions.