iPhone 12 Outperforms iPhone 12 Pro Max in China

By Aman Bansal, Flurry Analyst

In Apple’s most recent earnings call, they reported 64% of their record-breaking 111.4 billion in revenue came from international markets. After the United States, China is Apple’s second largest smartphone market, which should come as no surprise considering the world’s most populated country is also the world’s largest smartphone market. For this report, we’ll analyze iPhone adoption trends in China over the past several years with an emphasis on 2020’s iPhone 12 series. 

Flurry Analytics is used in over 1 million mobile applications worldwide, providing insights from 2 billion devices per month. Let’s begin by reviewing the current share of Apple’s iPhone install base in China as of February 2021.

Share of iPhone Install Base in  China

In the chart above, we list the top 15 iPhone devices in the Chinese market as of February 2021, by share of install base. The iPhone 11, the base model released in 2019, is the most popular iPhone in China with 13.4% of the total iPhone install base, followed by 2017’s iPhone X with 10.5%. Older iPhone models such as iPhone 7 Plus and iPhone 8 Plus also make the top 5, with their smaller counterparts iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 ranking at the 8th and 12th place respectively. Amongst the newer iPhone 12 lineup, the base iPhone 12 has captured the most share at 5.9%, followed by iPhone 12 Pro Max (4.2%) and iPhone 12 Pro (2.4%). The iPhone 12 mini failed to make the list of top 15 iPhone models as it only captured 0.5% of the total iPhone market in China. 

Let’s next look at the share of iPhone models by device age, and how it has changed over the last year.

Share of iPhone Users in China with Devices 4 Years and Older

In the side-by-side pie charts above, we present the age of iPhone devices held by Chinese consumers in February 2021 on the left, and February of 2020 on the right. The share of people holding phones for longer than 4 years has increased from 23% to 31% in the past year. People might be able to use their old iPhone devices longer due to better battery management offered by Apple through their Battery Health tool which supports iPhone 6 and later. Also, Apple substantially increased prices of new iPhone models since the launch of iPhone X in 2017, which might be leading people to wait longer for their next smartphone upgrade. Of course, COVID-19 impacted the economy and forced Apple to close retail stores for several months, which also could have delayed or prevented people from upgrading.

On the other hand, the share of people with iPhone devices less than one year old increased 3 percentage points to 14% in February 2021. This indicates that more people upgraded to the iPhone 12 lineup this cycle compared to the iPhone 11 series last year. 

Next, let’s look at the share of new device activations by iPhone series over the last four years.

Share of New iPhone Activations in China

In the chart above, we see how the share of new device activations has changed since 2017, by iPhone series. The share of the iPhone 6S series and older, represented in light blue, has decreased dramatically since 2017, while the share of iPhone 7 series (light green) and iPhone 8 series (orange) has not changed significantly. Even in 2021, they are still capturing 14% and 12% of all new iPhone activations, respectively. Since the iPhone 8 series launched, Apple has made substantial changes to their devices, including larger screen sizes, removal of the home button, and higher prices, which may deter some people from upgrading their phones to the newest models.

As of February 2021, the iPhone 12 series accounts for 25% of new iPhone device activations in China. But what’s interesting is that the iPhone X series is the second most popular lineup, capturing 19% of new activations in China and outperforming the newer iPhone 11 series by 2 percentage points. 

Lastly, let’s review how the iPhone 12 series has performed in China.

Share of New Device Activations from iPhone 12 Series in China

In the chart above, we illustrate the share of each device in the iPhone 12 series from October 2020 through February 2021. The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro were launched in October 2020 followed by iPhone 12 Pro Max and iPhone 12 mini in November 2020. Since launch, the iPhone 12, in green, has consistently been the most popular device in the iPhone 12 lineup, followed by iPhone 12 Pro Max, in purple. This is a reversal of the trend seen in the United States, where iPhone 12 Pro Max outshined the iPhone 12. Additionally, since coming down from the initial spike at launch, the iPhone 12 is consistently gaining share in China, whereas the other three devices in the lineup are flat or declining. In 2021 alone, the iPhone 12 has gained 4 percentage points, almost entirely at the expense of the iPhone 12 Pro Max. 

The other trends in the iPhone 12 lineup are more similar to those seen in the United States market. The iPhone 12 Pro Max has outsold its smaller counterpart, the iPhone 12 Pro, in both China and the United States, and iPhone 12 mini has failed to pick up much market share in either country. As per a recent report from Nikkei Asia, Apple will halt production of the iPhone 12 mini sometime in 2021 by 70% or more, further indicating that people may not be willing to pay top dollar for smartphones with a smaller screen. 

Based on Apple’s record-breaking fourth quarter and the increasing revenue coming from international markets, China will continue to be essential to Apple’s future growth opportunities. For more mobile industry insights, make sure you follow us on the Flurry Blog and on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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