6 Things to Know about the iPhone XS Launch in China

On September 21st, Apple began selling its latest iPhone series to fans and customers across the globe.

The phones released are the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR. The iPhone XS Max is the company’s biggest phone yet and boasts features like Face ID 2 for extra security, and up to 512Gb storage. But it is also the company’s most expensive iPhone yet.

Over the past days, topics relating to the latest iPhone are popping up on China’s online hot search lists, with the hashtag “New iPhone Release” (#新iPhone发布#) receiving 1,45 billion views, the hashtag #iPhone XS# receiving 320 million views on Weibo.

Here are six noteworthy facts to know about the iPhone XS in China:

 

1. Its front-facing selfie camera has a ‘Pitu’ effect

 

At time of writing, the phone’s front-facing “selfie” camera (#iPhone XS前置摄像头#), with more than 21 million views, is one of the most-searched topics on Weibo.

The camera is different from the cameras in earlier iPhone models in how it seems to add a filter to people’s skin. Although American media have reported that people complain about the “over-smoothing” of the skin because it makes them look “fake,” the great majority of Weibo commenters, on the contrary, like the function, and say it is welcomed in China.

TV presenter Liu Ye (@懂小姐刘烨) writes on Weibo: “About that pretty face result of the iPhone front-facing camera; now I even dare to post my photos without editing them in Pitu!” Pitu is a popular Chinese picture editing app.

Some netizens comment that the beautifying camera is much less controversial in China than abroad because Chinese people are already used to editing and photoshopping their photos by whitening the skin or making the eyes look bigger.

“This iPhone was actually designed for the female consumers in the Chinese and South Korean market, but accidentally ended up in the US,” one netizen jokingly says.

An older meme posted by commenter Lao Xu (@老徐时评) pokes fun at different smartphone cameras and how they make people look.”Perhaps foreigners like the reality more than we do,” other commenters suggested.

 

2. It’s even more expensive in China

 

The price of the latest iPhone is one of the biggest topics surrounding its launch. Although the phone already is very expensive in the US, its prices in China are even higher. While the iPhone XS 64 GB version is priced at $1099 in the US, the official online Apple store for China lists the same phone for RMB8,699 (±$1,270).

The most expensive model, the iPhone XS Max, costs a staggering RMB12,799 (±$1,860) for the 512Gb version. By comparison, the iPhone X which launched in 2017 cost $1,149 for the most expensive model in the US.

Beijing News points out on Weibo that the RMB12,799 model is 1,5 times the average monthly wage of Beijingers. “If I had the money, I’d buy it,” some people comment.

 

3. People are not going too crazy about its release

 

Although previous years have seen people getting up early and waiting in line for the latest iPhone models, this time, many people shared photos on Weibo of empty queues outside Apple retailers and launch events in China.

Despite the widespread online discussions of the latest iPhone, Chinese media outlet Sina.com reports that there has been more online interest in China in the new Apple Watch than in the iPhone XS.

Previously, the release of the iPhone 7 in 2016 also showed a similar trend, with many people saying they preferred made-in-China phones to the American iPhone.

Responding to the question ‘Why wouldn’t you buy the iPhone XS?”, most netizens mention the phone’s high price: “I’m too poor to buy it.”

 

4. The first person to own the iPhone XS was Mr. Wang from Hangzhou

 

TMall, Apple’s official online retailer in China, ran a promotional campaign to be the first person to own an iPhone XS, using the hashtag “The First iPhoneXS Person” (#iPhoneXS第一人#), which briefly went trending on the day of the launch.

The first person to own Apple’s latest offering turned out to be a certain Mr. Wang from Hangzhou, who bought the phone one minute after it went on sale. The ‘news’ was met with skepticism by netizens. “What’s the point of this story?”, was the most liked comment on Weibo.

 

5. It’s the first-ever iPhone to have dual sim slots (but only in China)

 

The Chinese version of the iPhone XS comes with a tray that can hold 2 sim cards, while the version sold outside of China has only got one sim card slot (allowing the creation of virtual SIMs).

The Chinese government controls and tracks sim cards and requires them to be registered to a user’s ID number, which might have to do with Apple’s decision to add an extra sim slot in the Chinese version. eSIMs allow people to connect to mobile networks without a physical sim card, making it easier, in theory, to create fake or untraceable accounts linked to the number. This could bypass controls on mobile phone networks and has been banned by Beijing.

 

6. The launch sparked controversy for listing Taiwan and HK as separate regions

 

Apple’s iPhone presentation earlier in September caused outrage and online debate in China, when Phil Schiller, the head of marketing, showed a slide where Taiwan and Hong Kong were listed as separate regions or countries from China.

CCTV soon called on the company to change its naming practices, and web users flooded the company’s official Weibo blog with complaints. Apple has not responded to the controversy yet. The official website still lists the two regions separately.

Also read our article on the most popular smartphones in China (2018).

By John Cowley and Manya Koetse

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