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Did Apple Lose Momentum in China? iPhone 7 Hits Chinese Market, Netizens Not Too Crazy About It

iPhone 7 has been launched in China on Friday, but this time, people are not going crazy over its release. Many Chinese netizens say they would rather buy “made-in-China” smartphones.

Manya Koetse

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iPhone 7 has been launched in China on Friday, but this time, people are not going crazy over its release. Many Chinese netizens say they would rather buy “made-in-China” smartphones. According to Chinese entrepreneur Jia Yueting, Apple has become ‘outdated’ in China.

The crazy long queues in front of the Sanlitun Apple flagship store in Beijing upon every launch of a new iPhone have almost become ‘normal’. In 2012, Apple even canceled the launch of the iPhone 4S after scalpers broke out into a fight.

But this year has been quite different. On September 16, the iPhone 7 went on sale in China and 27 other countries. According to The Telegraph, some people already started queuing up in front of various international Apple Stores days ago. In Beijing, however, Apple fans seemed less enthusiastic.

Chinese media described the iPhone 7 China launch as “not too crazy” (“不太疯”), with “calm” scenes in front of the Apple store. The earliest queuers did not arrive before 5 in the morning.

On Weibo, some netizens pointed out that queuing up would be useless anyway because most buyers already pre-ordered their iPhone 7. But the tempered reception of the iPhone 7 relates to more than the pre-ordering process, as experts say Apple is ‘outdated’ and losing momentum.

Although it is disputable whether or not online reactions affect the actual purchasing behaviour of Chinese consumers, it does affect its brand perception – which undoubtedly will affect the brand’s growth in China in the long run.

Looking at the reactions from Chinese netizens, Apple’s alleged declining popularity has multiple causes that relate to its price, strong domestic competition, lack of innovation, and nationalistic sentiments.

Overall, social media responses to the release of iPhone 7 in China were subdued and not very enthusiastic.

 

Not Willing to Pay the Price

“It’s better to buy 7 apples instead, better for your health, too.”

On the day of the iPhone 7 release in China, quite some netizens posted pictures holding the iPhone 7 – some with a purchased model, but mostly were pictures of the models in the store.

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According to one Weibo user from Guangdong, the lines at the local Apple stores were rather long, but many people seemed to line up only to see the iPhone 7 and “play with it” rather than actually purchasing it. For many, the iPhone is simply too expensive.

733eebb9gw1f7vebonpkxj20qo0zkaf0People queuing up at the Apple Store in Guangdong.

Official Apple prices of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus in China respectively are RMB 5388 (±807 US$) and RMB 6388 (±957 US$). But several Chinese media reported on Friday that scalpers often make good money from reselling iPhones, some priced up to RMB 1000 (150 US$) more than the retail price.

A 20-year-old netizen said: “I really don’t understand what people want to prove by buying an iPhone 7. Do they want to flaunt their money?”

There are more netizens resisting buying the smartphone simply because it is Apple. “Chinese people usually like to buy things if they’re expensive,” one Weibo user remarks: “And Apple knows this weak spot.”

“People have money, people are stupid,” another Weibo user explains.

Under the hashtag “Why I Am Not Buying An iPhone 7” (#我为什么不买iphone7#), Chinese netizens discussed their aversion to buying the new smartphone.

For many netizens, money is the main issue. “Why I don’t buy an iPhone? Well, for the same reason why I don’t buy a villa. Or an airplane. I don’t have the money.”

Other Weibo users also said: “I’m poor.”

“The price is unreasonable,” one person remarked: “It’s better to buy 7 apples instead, better for your health, too!”

“Why I don’t buy an iPhone? Because I like Vivo more!”, another netizen says, pointing out the strong competition iPhone has from Chinese smartphones.

 

Strong Domestic Brands & Chinese Nationalism

“I’d rather buy the made-in-China Huawei. I can’t forgive America and Japan for how they’ve hurt China with the South China Sea trial.”

Many Chinese netizens say they now prefer Chinese brands over Apple. Made-in-China smartphone brands Huawei (华为), Vivo, Oppo, and Xiaomi (小米) are all tough competition for Apple, especially because of their quality/price ratio.

Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 4 is priced at RMB 899 (±$135), almost six times cheaper than the iPhone 7.

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But there are also other reasons that contribute to people choosing Chinese brands over foreign ones. One social media comment said: “I’d rather buy the made-in-China Huawei. I can’t forgive America and Japan for how they’ve hurt China with the South China Sea trial.”

The South China Sea verdict came out on July 12, stating that China had no legal rights over reefs and islands that are also claimed by others. The case was brought to the international tribunal in the Hague by the Philippiness, sparking anger in China. While Japan and the USA are stepping up their activity in the contested South China Sea, many netizens feel attacked and see the refusal to buy Apple product as a political choice.

Many other netizens also expressed that they would rather “support China” by buying made-in-China smartphones.

 

Lack of Innovation

“Apple’s innovation has become extremely low.”

Chinese entrepreneur and CEO of LeEco (formerly: LeTV) Jia Yueting spoke to CNBC earlier this year, and said he thought Apple is ‘outdated’. He also said that one of the main reasons for Apple’s declining popularity in China is that its “innovation has become extremely slow.” He said: “For example, a month ago Apple launched the iPhone SE. From an insiders’ perspective, this is a product with a very low level of technology.”

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Other online analysts also predict that “Apple’s bubble is about to break.” Consumers have become more tech-savvy and have high expectations of the products and gadgets they buy: “Apple is still good compared to earlier Android phones in terms of ability. But iOs is not that good anymore. The use of Huawei is much more efficient now,” one netizen writes.

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For Apple, the subdued reactions on Chinese social media do not seem to affect its international sales. Initial quantities of the iPhone 7 Plus have already sold out globally, the company said Wednesday. This means that many customers who visited Apple Stores on Friday were not even able to purchase the sold-out phones. They can, however, still continue to place orders, Apple stated. On Weibo, however, many netizens seem to have lost their interest in getting their hands on the latest iPhone.

– By Manya Koetse

©2016 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China Digital

WeChat’s New Emoji Are Here (Including a Watermelon-Eating and Doge One)

WeChat’s new emoji are based on popular memes.

Manya Koetse

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On January 14, Tencent’s Wechat introduced new emoji to its existing emoji set. The new emoji include, among others, a watermelon-eating emoji and a smiling Shiba Inu.

On Weibo, the new emoji have become a topic of discussion under the hashtags “WeChat’s New Emoji” (#微信上线新表情#), “WeChat’s Watermelon Eating Emoji” (#微信上线吃瓜表情#), and “WeChat’s Dog Emoji” (#微信上线狗头表情#).

Different from the Unicode emoji (see Emojipedia), WeChat and Weibo have their own sets of emoji, although there is overlap.

The reason why especially the watermelon-eating and dog emoji are being discussed on social media, is because these emoji are based on popular internet memes.

“Eating watermelon” (吃瓜 chī guā) is an online expression that comes from “watermelon-eating masses” (吃瓜群众 chī guā qúnzhòng), which describes a common mentality of Internet users who have no idea what is actually going on but are still commenting or following online stories for their enjoyment – perhaps comparable to the “popcorn memes” that are ubiquitous on Western social media platforms.

The smiling dog has been around since 2013 and is known as the doge meme, based on a photo of a Shiba inu. The meme was originally spread on social media platforms such as Reddit, but then also became hugely popular in China, where it became a symbol of sarcasm (also read this Abacus article on this topic).

Other new emoji are the “wow” emoji, and others to express “ok,” “add oil,” “emm,” “oh!”

There’s also a “shehui shehui” (社会社会, lit. “society society”) emoji, which also comes from online culture and is a way among friends to (self-mockingly) talk about being ‘gangsters,’ ‘brothers.’ or ‘scoundrels.’

As the new emoji are still in their testing phase, not all WeChat users can use the new emoji yet, so you might have to wait a bit before being able to try them out.

By Manya Koetse, with thanks to @caaatchina
Follow @whatsonweibo

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2020 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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Backgrounder

‘Good Doctor’, Digital Hospitals: How Mobile Apps Are Alleviating China’s Healthcare Problems

With the rapid digitalization of China’s healthcare, Chinese patients now have more ways than one to receive medical assistance.

Manya Koetse

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China’s healthcare industry is facing some serious challenges. As Chinese society is rapidly digitalizing, mobile apps now provide innovative solutions to alleviate pressing problems in the country’s health services sector.

 
This is the “WE…WEI…WHAT?” column by Manya Koetse, originally published in German by Goethe Institut China on Goethe.de: “Good-Doctor Apps und Digitale Krankenhäuser.” 
 

Social Credit System, artificial intelligence, surveillance cameras; these are some of the hottest topics making headlines in mainstream Western media when discussing China-related developments recently.

With the rapid digitalization of Chinese society, these topics certainly have come to play a more important role in social media discussions within the People’s Republic of China (PRC). But if there is one issue that seems to concern Chinese social media users the most, it is not facial recognition nor their ‘Sesame score’: it is the topic of healthcare.

In December of 2017, a photo showing a crying mother kneeling down beside a toddler on the sidewalk in front of a Shanghai hospital went viral overnight. The moment was captured on camera by a reporter who was visiting Shanghai’s Children’s Hospital.

The photo of Guo Yinzhen and her son that went viral in China (image via NetEase, source: https://3g.163.com).

The mother, Guo Yinzhen, is a single parent who had traveled from a remote village to seek medical help for her 3-old-son, who was suffering from congenital hydrocephalus or ‘water on the brain.’ Already having traveled to the city multiple times and spending all her money on medical bills, Guo could not afford the additional 100.000 yuan (€ 12.600) for medical procedures needed to save her son’s life.

Guo’s story struck a chord with Chinese netizens, who continue to share the heartbreaking photo on social media to this day. It has become emblematic of China’s healthcare problems.

 

Crowded Hospitals and ‘Healthcare Disturbance’

 

The key to an adequate healthcare system, no matter where in the world, is that there is a right balancing in the “iron triangle” of efficiency/cost containment, high quality care, and patient access.[1] China, however, struggles with all three sides of this triangle.

Guo’s case is an extreme example, but many people in China dealing with less serious health issues and needing basic medical services also struggle to afford and access the healthcare they need.

Over 95% of people in China have health insurance, but people from different regions do not enjoy the same benefits and their out-of-pocket expenses can vary greatly. Uncovered medical costs can sometimes be catastrophic and simply unaffordable for patients and their families.

As more money flows are going to healthcare facilities in China’s cities, there is also the issue of varying levels of providers’ medical education and the overall healthcare quality, with the substantial majority of modern hospitals still existing in urban areas.

Easy access to the right kind of healthcare can be especially problematic for China’s rural population, as people often need to travel long distances and have to go through the lengthy process of registering and waiting for their doctor’s appointment, which sometimes requires them to stay in the city overnight.

For all of these reasons, China’s bigger public hospitals can get super crowded, sometimes resembling shopping malls on an end-of-season sales day. On social media, both patients and medical workers often complain about the stress brought about by the huge crowds and the shortage of doctors in hospitals across the country.

Perhaps it is no wonder that China even has a word to describe outbursts of violence between patients and doctors: ‘Yī nào’ (医闹, literally: “healthcare disturbance”).

Weibo user ‘Sunscreen’ complains about the crowds at Huashan Hospital.

One major problem within China’s healthcare conundrum is the lack of local family or primary-care doctors, which often makes bigger hospitals the first stop to any kind of medical treatment for Chinese patients.

The reasons for this issue are manifold. There is a general lack of trust in private and smaller local healthcare clinics, for example, and patients often choose to go directly to a bigger hospital to avoid making extra costs.

This makes it extra difficult for many community health care centers – that are already struggling – to make enough money and to retain qualified staff. In a society that is rapidly aging, the challenges facing China’s healthcare industry are only becoming more pressing.

 

A Doctor Today, Just an App Away

 

As China’s online environment is thriving, new innovative online apps are popping up on a daily basis. Some of these apps, that have found their ways into China’s most popular app rankings, are offering solutions to some of the country’s most pressing healthcare problems.

One of these apps is Ping’an Good Doctor (平安好医生), which was developed by health insurance provider Ping’an in 2015 and calls itself China’s “one-stop healthcare ecosystem.”

“Ping’an Good Doctor” promotional image by Ping’an.

Employing some 1000 medical staff in its in-house team, contracting over 5,200 external doctors, and collaborating with 3000 hospitals and thousands of pharmacy outlets across the country, the app is somewhat of an “online hospital.”

Through the app, users can look through an online database of medical professionals, order medicine at nearby pharmacies, get 24/7 online medical consultancy, search for information about both Western and Chinese Traditional Medicine, etc., but they can also use Ping’an Good Doctor as a fitness app to track their own health.

Screenshot of Ping’an app screen, by author.

When looking for a specific doctor for a one-on-one consult, the app first lets users select an area of expertise (e.g. dermatology or gynecology), and then offers a list of different specialists in various price categories.

Doctors from well-known hospitals, for example, or those with excellent ratings, have a one-time consultation fee of 100 yuan (€ 12,60). Other doctors can be consulted starting from 30 yuan (€3,70). All costs can be paid efficiently via online payment apps.

Doctors to pick from within the app’s various price categories.

Ping’an Good Doctor uses an AI-driven system to ask patients various questions about their symptoms and to automatically create a user’s medical record to save time. Based on the AI-generated record and the conversation with the patients – files such as photos can also be uploaded to the app -, the doctors can prescribe medicine or refer the patient to a hospital for an offline appointment if needed.

Ping’an recently announced that its number of registered users exceeded 300 million users, with 62 million monthly active users. Because the app keeps building on its AI-driven system, Ping’an Good Doctor can be expected to only become a ‘smarter’ smart health app the more popular it gets.

Although Ping’an is now leading within China’s medical app category, there are many other apps providing similar services, such as Chunyu Yisheng (春雨医生), Haodafu Online (好大夫在线), or DingXiang Doctor (丁香医生).

The emergence of these apps is just one of the many ways in which China’s digital developments, online media, and tech giants are impacting the healthcare industry, profoundly changing how patients receive healthcare information and access medical services now and in the future.

List of recommended medical apps in the Tencent app store.

In a way, China’s medical consultation apps fill the void in offline primary care. Patients who would otherwise turn to hospital care as their first stop can now  access medical consultations any time, any day, at a relatively low cost. Those who suffer from relatively harmless conditions could be diagnosed by a medical specialist via the app and get the medicine they need within a matter of minutes. With the growing popularity of these kinds of apps, many patients no longer need to visit a hospital at all.

Are smart health apps such as Ping’an Good Doctor the solution to China’s healthcare problems? No, they’re not. Struggling mums like Guo Yinzhen will not find the help they need there. But they do contribute to a more efficient healthcare environment where crowd flows in hospitals can be reduced, and patients do not need to spend a lot of time and money to stand in hour-long queues to get five minutes of their doctor’s time.

Although smart health apps could not help Guo Yinzhen and her son, social media apps could. As soon as their story went viral in late 2017, Shanghai Children’s Welfare Foundation Xiaoxingxin offered to cover medical treatments for the little boy, with a notable pediatric neurosurgeon operating the child. According to the latest updates, the boy’s situation was “looking good.”

Hopefully, the same holds true for the challenging sides of China’s healthcare industry.

By Manya Koetse
Follow @whatsonweibo

[1] Burns & Liu, 2017: 3-4.

References/Linked Sources

Burns, Lawton Robert, and Gordon G. Liu. 2017. “Introduction.” In China’s Healthcare Industry: A System Perspective, Lawton Robert Burns and Gordon G. Liu (eds), pp-1-116. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Economist, 2017. “China needs many more primary-care doctors.” The Economist, May 11 https://www.economist.com/china/2017/05/11/china-needs-many-more-primary-care-doctors [20.10.19].

Zhou, Viola. 2018. “Does China Have Universal Healthcare? A Long (And Better) Answer.” Inkstone, Oct 10 https://www.inkstonenews.com/health/china-translated-does-china-have-universal-health-care/article/2167579

This text was first published by Goethe-Institut China under a CC-BY-NC-ND-4.0-DE license (Creative Commons) as part of a monthly column in collaboration with What’s On Weibo.

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