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Apple's problems are expanding beyond China


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chief Tim Cook blamed China's accelerating economic downturn to stumble iPhone sales that damaged its global turnover in the last quarter. The company's problems run deeper in China and extend to markets beyond.

Chinese rivals, including Huawei Technologies Co., sell feature-smart smartphones at lower prices, pinching Apple's share of the world's largest smartphone market.

Meanwhile, it has faltered in the largest untapped smartphone market, India, where Apple accounts for just under 1[ads1]% of total sales, according to market ratings.

Mr. Cook also acknowledged problems in the home in his letter to investors on Wednesday. In the United States, Apple has been stuck by smartphones that extend the time they hold on their devices.

The conflicts of events represent a formidable challenge for a company whose revenues have grown 11 times in the iPhone era. With global iPhone sales stagnant, Apple cannot rely on large emerging explosive growth markets. And it has not yet found a transcending product that can compensate for the lost iPhone revenue.

After Mr. Cook has highlighted the problems in China in a sales announcement on Wednesday, Apple's stock fell 10% on Thursday to $ 142.19. The biggest single-day percentage drop for almost six years. The time slumped $ 74.65 billion from the company's market value.

At Apple's headquarters in California on Thursday morning, executives held an all-hand meeting to raise questions about the results, including the company's month-long stock image, people were familiar with. Some employees have a significant portion of their compensation related to limited share units. and, among other things, are worried about paying taxes on them

Apple's stock has fallen almost 40% since the peak of October 3 to USD 232.07.

  Apple's share of the Chinese smartphone market has been squeezed by lower-priced domestic brands.

Apple's share of the Chinese smartphone market has been squeezed by cheaper domestic brands.


Lintao Zhang / Getty Images

The growth problem is aggravated by Apple's reluctance to change its profitable strategy of selling a limited number of units at premium prices. Apple does not fully understand that price power is reduced in price-sensitive markets, analysts say, the result of cheaper competing products, a lack of compelling new features, and slowing economies, especially China.

"There is nothing Mr. Cook said to make you believe there are disruptive opportunities for Apple around the corner," said Tom Plumb, president of SVA Plumb Financial, a Madison, Wis., Wealth management firm. $ 2.6 billion in assets and counts Apple among its top stocks, even though it sold some stocks over the past two months. "They are still leading in many areas, but they are as big as they need, which is huge," said Mr. Plumb.

In his Wednesday letter, Mr. Cook said the company is "safe and excited" about its product pipeline, adding that "Apple is renewing itself as no other company on earth, and we do not take the foot off the gas. "

A component of Apple's strategy was long regarded as its biggest weapon: an ability to charge higher prices for its marker.

Average sales price for iPhone has increased 12% over the past four years to $ 749.63 in fiscal policy 2018, which helps to make up for reducing e sales of the device When Apple said last year, it would stop reporting device sales for iPhone and other products. The company's signaled sales volume was not as important as pricing, says Wayne Lam, a mobile analyst at IHS Markit.

This strategy works in trouble.

"Price elasticity broke" in the fourth quarter, said Lam. Apple misled the market because it has always been able to sell iPhones at premium prices, he said. "There is going to be a lot of self-seeking in management now."

Mr. Cook confirmed that the forecast revision would ask for mention. "We manage Apple in the long run, and Apple has always used periods of adversity to rethink our approach, to take advantage of our culture of flexibility, adaptability, and creativity, and to get better as a result," he wrote in his letter to investors.

Apple often had the opportunity to forecast iPhone sales "to third decimal," said Daniel Ives, an analyst for Wedbush Securities. That's what makes the audit so amazing, he said. "This is the biggest miscalculation of Apple in the iPhone era."

The macroeconomic problems quoted by Mr. Cook probably assumed about 20% of the deficit, Ives says. "Eighty percent of it is that Apple just swung and missed," he said. "This was an Apple issue issue."

A good example of Apple's execution issues is the iPhone XR, the more modestly priced device among three new phones it was released last fall. For China, Apple had placed large orders for XR, and provided strong demand for it to be sold in October, according to a person familiar with the case.

Apple now grabs excess XR inventory, said this person, a tough pill to swallow for a CEO who once described fixtures as "fundamental evil."

Apple may have underestimated how competing domestic smartphone manufacturers have become, analysts say. With a starting price of 6,499 yuan ($ 945), the XR is well priced over a competing Huawei model that also launched last year, Mate 20, which started at 3.999 yuan. Mate has a triple camera system while the XR has only a single camera.

Apple's IOS operating system is also less a selling point for Chinese consumers than in other markets because smartphone users spend a great deal of their phone time inside


a chat, payment and social media app from Tencent Holdings Ltd. which is identical on phones running Google's Android software.

The company has delivered poor performance in China before sales fell in both fiscal 2016 and 2017. But those moments were usually negative blips in otherwise star quarters of growth, driven by the infinite success of the iPhone. Now Apple faces major challenges at home.

iPhone's first decade was driven by significant innovative leaps in everything from battery life to display quality for camera performance. Two-year contracts from mobile operators combined with subsidies to units ran back to sales.

But the breakthroughs have slowed down, said Chetan Sharma, a mobile industry consultant. While some changes in recent years, such as larger displays with the iPhone 6, iPhone sales went, consumers in developed markets these days do not jump to new models as fast as before.

Four years ago, US consumers upgraded phones every 24.4 months, according to BayStreet Research LLC, which tracks unit sales. The upgrade rate hit 36 ​​months in the quarter that just ended, the company considers.

And it expects the length of US consumers to keep the phone on average 38.7 months during this year.

Average sales prices of iPhones are almost five times the average price of the non-Apple smartphone sold globally, according to Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi. It discourages upgrades, he said.

Melissa LeRitz used to upgrade her iPhone every two years. But the 29-year-old stopped doing so when her telephone company stopped covering most of the cost. Her iPhone 7, bought a few years ago, still works well, she said – even without some great new features.

"I think it's ridiculous to spend $ 1000 on a phone when there's not that much difference," said Ms. LeRitz, a lawyer in Medford, Ore. "I feel they are bothering them so fast I can't continue anyway. "

Mr. Cook said in the letter that Apple is trying to counteract the development in part by making it easier to trade in a phone in stores and finance the purchase of a new one over time.

If Apple keeps its pricing strategy, customers can keep their devices even longer and potential new customers can choose cheaper options. Falling prices to lure more buyers will push their margins and can cannibalize sales of their premium units.

"It's a challenging and arguably unimaginable problem Apple faces," Sacconaghi said. "There is no easy solution."

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