Apple’s newest iPhone is facing lackluster demand in China compared to its predecessor, according to new sales estimates, underscoring the tech giant’s challenges in one of its most important markets. The reports come amid conflicts between the Cupertino giant – and the United States – and China.

According to an Oct. 16 Bloomberg report, the iPhone 15 series sold around 4.5% fewer units in its first 17 days on sale in China versus the iPhone 14 a year prior, according to market research firm Counterpoint Research. A separate analysis by investment bank Jefferies estimates an even sharper double-digit percentage drop in iPhone 15 sales from the iPhone 14 debut.

The weaker-than-expected demand reflects China’s strained economy and the rise of domestic smartphone rivals like Huawei, which recently launched its flagship Mate 60 Pro to much fanfare. The new Huawei phone is powered by the company’s own Kirin processor, seen as a breakthrough since Huawei was cut off from US semiconductor technology due to sanctions.

Buoyed by the Mate 60 Pro, Huawei outsold Apple overall in recent weeks, per Jefferies’ analysis. This marks a blow to Apple, which is already dealing with the weakest global smartphone sales in 10 years.

While Counterpoint noted stronger iPhone 15 sales in the US, the China figures are concerning for Apple. The last time the iPhone saw a similar sales decline at launch was around 2018, when Chinese brands like Oppo and Vivo gained ground with cheaper but capable devices.

Huawei’s resurgence could further erode Apple’s dominance in China’s high-end smartphone market. Counterpoint estimates Huawei could sell 5-6 million Mate 60 Pro units this year, possibly rising to double-digit millions in 2024. Jefferies analysts warned weakening iPhone demand in China could eventually lead to lower global sales.

Still, some analysts remain optimistic about Apple’s long-term prospects as China’s economy recovers. But the iPhone 15’s rocky start underscores Apple’s need to keep innovating to stay competitive, even as Chinese firms gain capabilities once exclusive to Silicon Valley. With nationalist sentiment rising, Apple faces slower sales and even government curbs on iPhone use in China – factors it must overcome to reignite growth there.

Featured Image Credit: Amazon Product Page; Thank you!

Radek Zielinski

Radek Zielinski is an experienced technology and financial journalist with a passion for cybersecurity and futurology.