The recent release of Apple’s new budget iPhone has helped prop up the tech giant’s faltering business in China, new data shows.
The Cupertino, California-based company sold 3.9 million iPhones in China last month, a 160 percent increase from March when the country was locked down by the coronavirus, according to data obtained by CNBC from market research firm CINNO Research.
The iPhone SE — which Apple announced in mid-April and starts at just over $450 in China — accounted for about a quarter of the month’s sales despite only being in stores for two weeks, according to the firm.
Apple’s iPhone sales in China dropped 60 percent in February when it had to close all of its stores there.
The company may still be in for a challenging road ahead, however, as economic pressures stemming from the pandemic squeeze Chinese customers’ wallets and Apple is forced to compete with a broad line of cheap Chinese phones.
“Users previously may have considered to buy Apple but right now they may choose Huawei as they might get a phone with cheaper price and good features,” Will Wong, a researcher at the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology, told CNBC.
Researchers also said Apple’s market share may be dented in the near future until it releases a 5G iPhone.
The next iPhones are rumored to have 5G hardware, which will allow them to access a network that promises faster internet and quicker response times than LTE.
Last month, reports emerged that Apple was delaying the production ramp-up for the new phones as the coronavirus pandemic weakened global consumer demand and threw a wrench into its manufacturing operations across Asia.
Apple traditionally needs to send engineers back and forth from its offices to its factories in China to finalize designs in the lead-up to the product’s release. But the coronavirus has led Apple to restrict employee travel to hotbeds of the disease, including China.
Shares of Apple were flat Friday morning, at $317.70.