Apple will not launch the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus in China on the pre-scheduled Sept. 19 date, according to The New York Times.
While the botched launch will be a mere glitch in the long run, it is a huge frustration to Apple which has paid special attention to its distribution in Asia. Asian markets are largely dominated by Google’s Android mobile platform. Apple was making headway in China, and now has 7% market share there, according to Quartz. Apple CEO Tim Cook had made a personal trip to China in January to launch a big wireless carrier distribution network deal there.
It’s not clear why the delay is happening.
One theory is that Apple is “punishing” China for all the leaked parts and photos of the iPhone 6 that came out of the country prior to the Sept. 9 launch. Three Chinese carriers — China Mobile, China Telecom, and China Unicom — did display images of the new phone on their web sites prior to the Sept. 9 unveiling, according to MarketWatch. That would be exactly the kind of behaviour that would incur Apple’s wrath.
The other theory is that China’s government regards the iPhone as a threat to its national security, and thus officials are firing a shot across the company’s bow. Apple denies that the iPhone can be used by the U.S. NSA to spy or eavesdrop on Chinese users.
Chinese regulators had not approved the phones for sale, the paper reported. Staff at Apple’s major China carrier, China Telecom, blamed Apple, The Times said:
Apple’s staff in China appeared to have been caught off-guard by the last-minute change of plans, with one executive saying on Wednesday that all of the company’s stores in Beijing and Shanghai had been preparing for sales to begin on Sept. 19. The executive spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Representatives of Apple told the Chinese mobile carriers only that “there are some details which are not ready,” according to a sales manager at China Telecom, who declined to be named. “Apple completely let us down without prior notice,” the manager added.
Two carriers, China Telecom and China Unicom, both took down their iPhone 6 order pages, according to China Daily. The pages had been live for about a month. China Telecom had taken 33,000 reservations for the new phone, according to AppleInsider.
The South China Morning Post says the phones will go on sale a week later than planned.
iPhone 6 sales will go ahead as planned in other Asian markets.
The screwup comes on heels of another marketing snafu in the iPhone 6 launch, when the company’s livestream of its launch event went down for about 25 minutes last Tuesday. While both glitches are trivial in the grand scheme of things, they go against Apple’s corporate culture of perfection — this is the company where everything “just works,” after all.