Chinese Net Users Disappointed by iPhone 5 (But They'll Buy It Anyway)

As now seems par for the course with Apple announcements, the wake of the iPhone 5 announcement has brought a lot of disappointment. In China, users have taken to social media like Sina Weibo to express their disappointment with the less-than-revolutionary new model. For example, a poll Sina was conducting before the launch showed just over 21 percent of users interested in buying an iPhone 5. But now a newer Weibo poll created after the announcement shows that the percentage of users planning to buy the iPhone 5 on Weibo has dropped to 16.

Of course, a Weibo poll is hardly scientific, but there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence as well. Browsing through weibo and other social media in China, it’s easy to find comments like this one:

To be honest, I was a bit excited about the iPhone 5 announcement last night. I was hoping for some kind of innovation to please fans like me. But in the end it was just a meeting to confirm everything the press had already reported. Aside from being thinner, longer, and not being able to use a SIM card, there was nothing there to surprise me.

Does this mean Apple could be facing a harder sell than usual in China? I highly doubt it. The same thing has happened with the last two Apple product announcements, but the post-announcement disappointment didn’t translate into lower sales. According to Apple’s SEC filings, there has been strong demand for the 4S and the new iPad in China and in fact the actual release of both products sparked a growth in sales. Chinese net users, it seems, don’t like to let their disappointment get in the way of actually buying Apple products.

As I have said before, the iPhone 5 does face a potential new challenge in the plethora of cheap smartphones now flooding the Chinese market, but I don’t believe sales will be particularly affected by this. In China, the iPhone is a luxury item, and I know I’m starting to sound like a broken record with this, but I really think the fact that it’s visibly different from previous models is going to help push it to even more impressive sales than the 4S enjoyed, because that makes it much easier to show off.

Only time will tell if China’s really interested in the new iPhone, and the official launch is still a long way off. But judging from the fact that gray market iPhone 5s are already being listed on Taobao in anticipation of the device’s release next week, it seems pretty clear that once again, disappointment and diminished demand are two very different things.

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