Apple Just Opened Up an Enormous Sales Opportunity in China

A blog about business and economics.
Dec. 23 2013 2:08 PM

Apple Just Opened Up an Enormous Sales Opportunity in China

Now I can use it!

Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

China Mobile has 760 million customers. That's as if a single mobile phone operator had every single person in the United States of America and every single person in the eurozone as a customer. Including the babies and convicts and 97-year-olds. And until a deal they concluded with Apple today, those customers couldn't really get iPhones. That partnership is obviously a huge deal for Apple, and yet every article I've read on the subject is somewhat perversely Slatepitching it as maybe not such a big deal.

It's time to stand up for common sense and say that, yes, this is a big deal.

It's true—very true—that Apple's phones are too expensive for the average Chinese consumer. And it's also true that in China there are a lot of popular super-cheap (~$100) "dark Android" phones made by Lenovo and weird Chinese companies nobody's ever heard of. But when you're talking about a 760 million customer base, you don't need the average person to buy an iPhone 5C. Sell them to the most prosperous 5 percent of the customer base and you're talking about 38 million phones. The fact that China blocks many of Google's services and that the local face of Android is low-end devices that aren't tied into the Google ecosystem helps Apple, giving it less competition in the market for high-end devices.


Last but by no means least, as you may have heard, China is experiencing rapid economic growth these days. If you ask yourself not so much "where are the people who want to buy a $700 smartphone?" but "where is the number of people who want to buy a $700 smartphone likely to increase over the next five years?" it seems pretty obvious that the answer is China. But to take advantage of that growing market, you need the infrastructure in place. That's why Apple hired a retail chief who has lots of experience opening and operating high-end retail stores in China. The other key part of that infrastructure is a deal with the major local carrier. Now they've got it, and they're set to sell lots of iPhones over the next few years.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.



Scalia’s Liberal Streak

The conservative justice’s most brilliant—and surprisingly progressive—moments on the bench.

Colorado Is Ground Zero for the Fight Over Female Voters

There’s a Way to Keep Ex-Cons Out of Prison That Pays for Itself. Why Don’t More States Use It?

The NFL Explains How It Sees “the Role of the Female”

The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B


Theo’s Joint and Vanessa’s Whiskey

No sitcom did the “Very Special Episode” as well as The Cosby Show.


The Other Huxtable Effect

Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.

Cliff Huxtable Explains the World: Five Lessons From TV’s Greatest Dad

Why Television Needs a New Cosby Show Right Now

  News & Politics
Sept. 18 2014 8:20 PM A Clever Attempt at Explaining Away a Vote Against the Farm Bill
Sept. 18 2014 6:02 PM A Chinese Company Just Announced the Biggest IPO in U.S. History
The Slate Quiz
Sept. 18 2014 11:44 PM Play the Slate News Quiz With Jeopardy! superchampion Ken Jennings.
  Double X
Sept. 18 2014 8:07 PM Crying Rape False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 18 2014 1:23 PM “It’s Not Every Day That You Can Beat the World Champion” An exclusive interview with chess grandmaster Fabiano Caruana.
Brow Beat
Sept. 18 2014 4:33 PM The Top 5 Dadsplaining Moments From The Cosby Show
Future Tense
Sept. 18 2014 6:48 PM By 2100 the World's Population Could Be 11 Billion
  Health & Science
Sept. 18 2014 3:35 PM Do People Still Die of Rabies? And how do you know if an animal is rabid?
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.