Date
22 January 2017
Apple's newly launched iPhone SE is an improved version of the iPhone 5s. In Sin Tat Plaza, the cheapest iPhone is selling at a premium of HK$100 or less. Photos: Google Maps, PCMag
Apple's newly launched iPhone SE is an improved version of the iPhone 5s. In Sin Tat Plaza, the cheapest iPhone is selling at a premium of HK$100 or less. Photos: Google Maps, PCMag

Is this the new normal in iPhone launches?

Apple product launches have been blockbuster media spectacles.

Not this one in which Apple introduced its cheapest iPhone.

Sure, the iPhone SE sold out in Hong Kong Thursday but counter sales don’t create as much buzz here as off-site deals.

For instance, in Sin Tat Plaza in Mong Kok, the iPhone SE was changing hands at a premium of HK$100 or less.

But in Apple stores, the norm is unchanged — buyers order online and receive the product the following week.

Welcome to the new iPhone era.

Nine years after Steve Jobs unveiled the first iPhone amid a media frenzy, only Apple diehards have sleepless nights before a launch.

The rest of humanity is getting used to the idea that a new iPhone is like another, no matter how much Apple loads it with smart new features.

Still, Jobs would have been proud.

He would be toasting Apple’s 40th anniversary with the warm thought that the device has sold more than one billion units and — no surprise — China is its biggest market.

I happen to know. I’ve seen many young Chinese use nothing but Apple iPhones, sometimes owning two or three of them at once.

Is that what they call claiming ownership?

You decide but the fact is iPhones are made in China by Taiwanese contract manufacturer Foxconn.

Which brings us back to the newest iPhone iteration and its less than fanatical debut.

What happened?

There are many reasons but we can start with the 4Ps of marketing — place, price, product and promotion.

First, place. Hong Kong is small but Apple uses it as a springboard to the vast Chinese hinterland.

Since the iPhone 6 debut last year, Apple has launched new phones simultaneously in Hong Kong and mainland China.

They are among 12 launch markets for the iPhone SE.

Second, price. The iPhone SE costs HK$3,499 (US$322) in Hong Kong, slightly higher than in the US but lower than in China (3,288 yuan or HK$3,958).

No wonder Hong Kong speculators who accumulated large orders are not making a killing in the mainland as they used to.

But we might be comparing apples and oranges.

The iPhone SE is about half the price of the high-end and bigger-screen iPhone 6s but also has an Apple Pay function.

Still, it’s nothing more than an improved version of the iPhone 5s.

Jobs liked the small-screen version of the iPhone before big became the industry norm.

So, if the new iPhone has nothing new to offer, who would care to buy it?

Apple knows this and envisages that demand for the iPhone SE will come from China and India.

Finally, promotion. Hand on heart, which brand has been advertising its latest model in Hong Kong every day?

Hint: it’s not Apple. You have two more guesses.

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BK/DY/RA

EJ Insight writer

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