Last week, I received a fresh market report from China Polling about the growing popularity of the iPhone in China. Some of their results got me wondering.
First, the numbers:
Unsurprisingly, over 65% have heard of iPhone, and among this group, more than 85% are willing to actually buy an iPhone if itâ€™s available here in China.
While the iPhone is not yet *officially* available in China, the price sure won’t be a bargain once it hits the Apple store. This is, after all, Apple quality — you get what you pay for. A cursory search came up with one store in China selling an iPhone for 4,300 RMB (~$600 USD). Still, that price is still well above the average salary of a young person living in major cities such as Beijing or Shanghai (around 2,500 – 3,000 RMB).
Findings show that Battery Life, Memory Size, Style/Design are the top features when picking a phone for all consumers. The difference between iPhone lovers and the not yet converted is all about branding. The non iPhone lovers prefer Music and Camera features rather than being wooed and indoctrinated by the hip Apple brand equity.
I found it telling that the style/design was up in the top three, and also that branding plays a major role in wooing people over to the iPhone.
When I was in college and studying US culture (we read Neil Postman — classic!), our professor once asked us what the real symbol of US culture was. None of us even came close to his response: the car. It made sense because it is something so deeply a part of people’s lives, and, more importantly, it has become a way to express one’s values. Patriotic? Buy American (i.e. Ford/GM). Green? Get a Prius. Wealthy? Show it off with a luxury car (Mercedes, Porsche, etc.). The associations could go on and on, but I think you get the idea.
I have to wonder if the mobile phone is becoming the symbol of China, in the same way. While there are cars in China, not everyone can afford them. But everyone — yes, even those guys out in the fields in the countryside — has a mobile phone. And people are willing to spend thousands of RMB just have the “right phone”. Including getting the hot new iPhone in China (once it gets to China, that is).
I remember back in my office in Shanghai, when the girls in particular seemed obsessed with their phones. They hung all sorts of trinkets and pictures on them. One girl had no qualms about purchasing a mobile phone that had to be more than half of her monthly salary.
What do you think? Are mobile phones the new symbol of China? And how will the iPhone change the landscape?