When Apple first made the iPhone available in gold color—with the 5S in 2013—smart observers identified it as a play for the Chinese consumer. And, Tim Cook says, the glitter has proved golden in the world’s largest smart-phone market.
In an interview with the the Hong Kong edition of Bloomberg Businessweek (available only in print), the Apple CEO points to the gold iPhone—subsequent generations of the phone and the iPad are available in that color—as but one example of how the company localized for the Chinese market.
“A big reason for why we released the gold iPhone as because many Chinese consumers like the color gold,” Cook told the publication. “To be clear, sales for the gold iPhones in China have far, far exceeded other markets.”
Cook also noted how the introduction of third-party keyboards in iOS 8 was partially inspired by requests from China’s iPhone owners. Typing in Chinese can be very tedious, and many of China’s most popular third-party keyboards had moved from PC to Android seamlessly but weren’t available on Apple phones.
“Many people liked Apple’s in-house input method, but we also received lots of feed back from Chinese users [telling us] they wished there were more suitable input methods. So we worked with Chinese developers to do research, and eventually let customers download them from the Chinese app store.”
These two points 0nly scratch the surface of how Apple has been localizing for consumers in Asia.
While Apple was busy boasting that the iPhone 5 could be held in one hand, Samsung was winning over Asian consumers with its big-screen devices. In September 2014, IDC released a report stating annual phablet shipments were growing at a rate of 210% annually. The same month, Apple released the jumbo iPhone 6 Plus.
The attention to its Chinese customers has paid off. Revenue for greater China has skyrocketed in the time since the launch of iOS 8 and the iPhones 6.