23 October 2016
The iPone 7 marketing tagline has varying translations in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan (from left to right). Photos: Facebook
The iPone 7 marketing tagline has varying translations in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan (from left to right). Photos: Facebook

Is ’7′ proving unlucky for Apple and Samsung?

Seven does not seem to be a lucky number for the world’s two biggest mobile phone manufacturers this autumn.

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 has caught fire literally, forcing the Korean giant to suspend sales of its latest gadget and issue a product recall.

Following reports of battery explosions, Note 7 has joined the list of banned items on aircraft in several countries, as of now.

Now, coming to Apple, which is preparing to begin iPhone 7 sales this Friday, there is also some not-so-good news. 

Judging from grey market prices in Sin Tat Plaza and lukewarm media coverage, demand for iPhone 7 in Hong Kong may not be as hot as that seen during Apple’s previous smartphone launches.

We may not witness the usual mile-long queues for Apple’s latest gadget on the first day, even though the launch is taking place on a public holiday in the city.

Well, the number 7 may not only be a curse in this part of the world, it is also emerging as a joke among the Chinese-speaking community.

For Samsung, it had no option but to replace the devices it began selling only three weeks ago, though the firm insists that the faulty batteries were in just a small portion of the Note 7 shipments.

“After a thorough investigation, we have determined that fewer than 500 units of Galaxy Note 7 sold in Hong Kong and Macau between August 26 and September 1 may be affected,” the South Korean electronics giant said in a media statement.

“As such, a replacement program will be launched whereby these affected devices can be exchanged for new ones.”

According to a dealer at Sin Tat Plaza in Mong Kok, Note 7 has seen its price drop nearly 9 percent to HK$5,699 from an original tag of HK$6,198.

Samsung, interestingly, skipped the 6 model and called its new offering Note 7 as it sought to fix a misalignment between the numbering of its Galaxy S and Galaxy Note gadgets.

The move was also seen as a bid to match up with rival Apple, which was gearing up for iPhone 7.

Apple, meanwhile, has found itself in a rather unfortunate situation with its “This is 7″ slogan, given a Cantonese literal translation of the tagline.

The tech giant’s latest marketing line sounds like someone declaring “This is penis”, going by a pronunciation of the word Seven in Cantonese, people have pointed out.

The joke is well understood in the Greater China region as the number 7, just like “9″, is associated with male organs. (Well, Note 7 is not much better, given that it literally means “one penis”.)

Apart from the issue of the embarrassing tagline, Apple has raised eyebrows with its decision to do away with the traditional headphone jack on the new iPhones. 

Apple’s products are always cool, but the company’s transition to new Lightning wireless headsets is causing some customer resistance.

A local mobile operator told me some that Apple fans appears to be skeptical about the wireless “Airpods”, fearing that they may not deliver optimal sound quality, or that they may consume too much battery power.

Also, if a person loses the earbuds — which is easy given their tiny size and free-hanging units — one will need to spend the equivalent of US$159 to get a replacement.

All this said, we are not suggesting that the grey market premium for new Apple phones is a thing of the past.

Despite some issues, the iPhone 7 with fetch a minimum HK$2,000 profit if the early getters sell it to Sin Tat traders.

But taking Greater China as a whole, Apple’s latest launch could see fewer fireworks in terms of initial sales.

Well, let’s wait and watch the situation in the coming weeks.

Anyway, if things don’t turn out too well, Apple can always hope for better luck with the iPhone 8.

And ditto for Samsung, with its own Note 8 in the future.

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EJ Insight writer

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