China’s biggest carrier, China Mobile, has denied rumors swirling on social media that it won’t sell Apple’s iPhone 15, as the Cupertino company faces a wave of resurgent Chinese Nationalism and a government ban on iPhone for work.
It’s the third harrowing story for Apple in China in as many days. On Wednesday, WSJ reported that the Chinese government has banned the use of iPhones for government officials at work. The revelation was enough to send Apple’s shares into a slide and was followed by a second revelation on Thursday that the ban could get even worse for Apple. Specifically, it was reported that Apple could extend the ban to workers at state-owned enterprises in China, of which there are more than 150,000 in the country.
Now, China’s largest mobile network, China Mobile, has been forced to publicly state that it does still plan to offer the iPhone 15 to its 985 million mobile customers following a spate of rumors to the contrary.
Apple’s continued iPhone headache in China
Indicative of the rumors, an account on X shared earlier this week that “CHINA MOBILE has announced that it will no longer sell the iPhone 15 series of phones. Just as the US is not allowed to sell Huawei phones on its soil.” The viral post and others like it were enough that China Mobile has since come forward to refute the news, stating that it will continue to work with Apple to sell the iPhone 15.
According to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, Apple is not only contending with the government ban and competition from Huawei but also “a resurgence in Chinese nationalism that spurs everyday consumers to shun the iPhone and other foreign-branded devices.” That report notes that this is similar to the impact of national sentiment on sales of the iPhone XS and XR five years ago.
While Apple’s market value has lost nearly $200 billion this week, one commentator, Liqian Ren, noted that “most top SOE workers already stopped using iphone so [the] actual impact of the policy of banning iphone for govt workers is small,” and that Apple’s iPhone “is still considered [a] luxury buy” in the country, minimizing the scope of the impact to “China’s macro environment.”
With the September 12 iPhone 15 event just days away, and Apple’s new best iPhone expected to go on sale for pre-order in a week’s time, this is one launch week headache Apple could definitely do without.