Apple is expected to unveil new iPhone models early next month, an event that industry watchers as well as millions of ordinary consumers will watch with bated breath.
There is widespread talk that the US tech giant is preparing to launch three new phones that will bear different screen sizes, including one that could come with a 6.5 inch OLED display.
The mega-screen phone, assuming the rumors turn out true, will no doubt cause much excitement in the market, but there could be another initiative that could grab even more headlines: a dual-SIM offering.
Among the various speculations doing the rounds currently is that Apple could launch its first dual-SIM iPhone soon, specifically for the Mainland China market.
Chatter about a possible dual-SIM iPhone gained traction in recent days after tech bloggers noted that Apple’s iOS 12 beta 5 operating system contained references to “second SIM status” and “second Sim Tray Status” in diagnostic reporting.
It suggests a phone could have two physical slots for SIM cards, giving users a hint that an upcoming Apple device could be dual-SIM compatible, as the new software will be launched together with the new iPhones.
On Monday, a Taiwan newspaper, citing a source at iPhone contract maker Foxconn, reported that one of two models of new 6.1-inch iPhone could be a dual-SIM version exclusively for the China market.
According to the Economic Daily News, the 6.1-inch LCD phone will be made available in both single and dual-SIM models, with the latter to be marketed only in China.
Apart from the 6.1-inch versions, there will be two other models scheduled for launch — one with 6.5-inch screen and the other with 5.8-inch screen, reports suggest.
Of course, all this should be treated as mere speculation right now, and there is no saying what Apple might actually announce at the fall product event.
Still, given the hints from the software codes, the chance for launch of a dual-SIM handset does seem to be relatively high.
Dual-SIM phones are popular in emerging markets as users often switch accounts from several providers to get the best savings as well as secure more data usage.
Also, such facility allows users to keep SIMS separate for work and personal use, without having to carry two phones. Frequent travelers also love dual-SIM devices as they can put in a local SIM card during trips, enabling them to avoid expensive roaming charges.
While most Android phones currently have the dual-SIM facility, Apple has never launched such a device in the market.
But that could be about to change as the company realizes the preferences of customers, especially in a large market such as China. Should Apple launch a dual-SIM product, it could help give a big push to its market share in the country.
According to market research firm Counterpoint, Apple was ranked the fifth in the China smartphone market in the second quarter this year, with a 9 percent market share, putting it behind local players Huawei, Vivo, Oppo and Xiaomi.
While Apple reported a strong performance in China market in the quarter, with revenue up 19 percent from a year earlier, the iPhone business wasn’t that good when compared to that of Huawei, which saw a 22 percent jump in shipments as it focused on the both high-end and mass-market segments with different brands.
While Apple can maintain its premium market position with the successors of iPhone X in two different screen sizes, the new rumored 6.1-inch iPhone could be a key weapon for the company to win back market share from local players offering the dual-SIM function.
If Apple does launch the dual-SIM version for the China market, it will be in a good position to narrow the gap with Chinese players, winning customers on the back of its unique iOS ecosystem. Local brands without strong software offerings like Vivo and Oppo may need to watch out.
In the second quarter, Huawei surpassed Apple to be the second largest smartphone maker in the world as it gained ground in Europe and also expanded its lead in its home market.
Some market watchers believe Huawei can even take the top spot globally in 2019, dislodging Samsung from its perch. As the Chinese firm powers ahead, with other players such as Xiaomi also scoring big successes, it becomes imperative for Apple to rethink its market strategies.
While it focuses on profitability and service revenue rather than just hardware sales, it is still important for Apple to sustain shipments growth in key regions if it is to defend and expand its market share and pave way for future service revenue growth.
In tackling China, the world’s biggest smartphone market, a dual-SIM phone can certainly prove a handy weapon.
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