Apple Facing Struggle to Convince Chinese Smartphone Users to Switch Allegiance

Apple is facing an uphill struggle in its attempts to wean Chinese smartphone users off cheaper rival devices in a saturated mobile market, according to a new Bloomberg report.

With Apple gearing up to sell its most ambitious but most expensive iPhone yet, local competitors like Huawei, Oppo, and Xiaomi are already poised to compete by launching their own less expensive feature-packed devices around Apple's September 12 "iPhone 8" launch date.

Unofficial "iPhone 8" poster spotted in Chinese store (via Slashleaks)
While it sticks to a global template that's served it well, local vendors have become adept at technology design while tailoring phones to local tastes, such as with dual SIM capability. In a show of confidence, Huawei Technologies Co., Xiaomi Corp. and likely Vivo -- far from front-running or avoiding the iPhone the way movie studios juggle summer tentpoles -- are tackling the U.S. company head-on by timing new products around the publicity avalanche sure to engulf Apple’s Sept. 12 launch.

"The challenge comes from Vivo, Oppo and Huawei, they can replace Apple in high-end markets priced around $500, even as Apple remains dominant in the ultra high-end $600 plus segment," said Kiranjeet Kaur, an analyst with industry consultancy IDC. "We don't expect big growth as China's market is now very saturated. The biggest demand for the new iPhone will come from the replacement market."
Part of the problem is that many of the features Apple will debut in its so-called "iPhone 8", such as a full-screen display and wireless charging, are already available in some form to consumers in China, albeit at a much lower price point. Adding to the difficulty is that local vendors have become more skilled at efficient smartphone design and are particularly adept at tailoring smartphones to local preferences.

On the software side, the ubiquitous WeChat app has been described as the iPhone's "toughest rival" in the country. The app offers users an entire ecosystem where they can pay for services, text, call cabs, watch videos, play mobile games, and access cloud-based "mini programs", or apps that don't need to be downloaded to a device to be used. WeChat is said to have captured nearly 35 percent of each user's monthly smartphone usage time, averaging about 1 billion monthly active users in total.

Combined, these market factors make it increasingly difficult for Apple to prise away users from rival devices and platforms, which doesn't bode well in a market which the company has historically struggled to penetrate.

To counter these obstacles, Apple has previewed new features coming in iOS 11 that specifically cater to Chinese customers, such as QR code scanning with the native camera app, a keyboard that makes Chinese characters easier to input, and a new mapping app that shows traffic camera locations.

But with supply of new iPhones expected to be tight in the upcoming months, Apple's Chinese rivals may be seeing their best chance yet to lure buyers away with features aimed at local users, such as dual SIM devices that support multiple phone numbers, high capacity memory and storage, and advanced selfie cameras.

Apple and the iPhone have taken fourth place in China, behind Oppo, Vivo, and Huawei, according to market research firm Warren Captial, while in April Kantar Worldpanel's data noted that iOS dropped to its lowest share of the China smartphone market since 2014.

Canalys estimates Apple's Chinese smartphone shipments will grow by just 1.4 percent to 22.5 million units in the second half of 2017. Meanwhile, the upcoming OLED iPhone's rumored $1,000-plus price tag may end up pushing iOS fans toward local alternatives, "because even well-heeled buyers are price-sensitive", said Jia Mo, an analyst from Canalys.

Related Roundup: iPhone 8
Tags: China, Huawei, Vivo, Oppo

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Fitbit Announces Deal to Bring Glucose Monitoring Data to its Ionic Smartwatch

Fitbit has announced a new partnership with glucose monitoring device company Dexcom that is set to bring diabetes monitoring capabilities to the fitness tracker company's new Ionic smartwatch.

The deal initially means Ionic users will be able to connect a Dexcom device to the Fitbit app and seamlessly transfer up-to-date glucose level data to the smartwatch, making the information more easily accessible on their wrist.

"The collaboration between Dexcom and Fitbit is an important step in providing useful information to people with diabetes that is both convenient and discreet," said Kevin Sayer, President and CEO, Dexcom. "We believe that providing Dexcom CGM data on Fitbit Ionic, and making that experience available to users of both Android and iOS devices, will have a positive impact on the way people manage their diabetes."
There's nothing in the partnership to suggest the Ionic smartwatch will be able to give continuous glucose monitoring readouts on its own when it's released next month – current continuous glucose monitoring systems require a small sensor that's worn under the skin to monitor glucose levels – but Fitbit shares jumped 13 percent on the news, a high for the company since January, when it laid off some of its employees and announced its smartwatch plans.

Dexcom also has a deal with Apple to bring its features to the Apple Watch this year, while owners of Dexcom monitors can already view their glucose data on an Apple Watch – advanced devices by Dexcom include a transmitter, which can display glucose information directly to an iPhone app.

Apple is thought to be working on a non-invasive real-time glucose monitor for a future version of Apple Watch. In April, a CNBC report suggested Apple had a team of biomedical engineers working to develop sensors for non-invasively monitoring blood glucose, with work on the sensors far enough along that the company had started conducting feasibility trials.

Apple CEO Tim Cook was reportedly spotted in May testing a prototype glucose monitor that's connected to his Apple Watch. Cook, who is said to be aiming to understand how his blood sugar is affected by food and exercise, has been seen wearing the device around the Apple Campus.

Related Roundups: Apple Watch, watchOS 3, watchOS 4
Tags: Fitbit, Dexcom
Buyer's Guide: Apple Watch (Caution)

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Spotify Announces First Live Music Event in the U.K.

Spotify has announced its first live music event in the U.K., just days after Apple axed its own annual London music festival (via The Verge).

Called "Who We Be", the event is scheduled to take place at London's Alexandra Palace on November 30 and will have a rap and grime theme, with a line-up featuring the likes of Dizzee Rascal, Bugzy Malone, Cardi B, Giggs, J Has, and Stefflon Don.


The festival gets its name from Spotify's curated Who We Be playlist, which has a 140,000-strong following. Subscribers to the playlist can take advantage of a pre-sale ticker offer that starts on Saturday 9, while general ticket sales begin on Monday 11. Tickets can be ordered from Spotify's event website.

Apple's Music Festival had a decade-long run before it was confirmed that the company had decided to bring the tradition to an end. The free annual concert's performances had been broadcast live and on-demand through Apple Music since 2015. Apple provided no reason for ending the annual festival nor any indication that it will return anytime soon.

Tag: Spotify

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Covers for TIME Magazine Special Series Shot Entirely on iPhone

The iPhone offers a high-quality camera that Apple improves with every iteration, and the photos and videos that it takes have been used for fashion runways, feature films, and other professional applications.

TIME Magazine is the latest publication to exclusively use the iPhone's camera for a photo shoot, with its new "Firsts: Women Who Are Changing The World" series, which features iPhone images captured by Brazilian photographer Luisa Dörr.

Over the course of the last year, Dörr has used an iPhone 5, iPhone 6, iPhone 6s, and iPhone 7 to capture photos of notable and accomplished women like Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Melinda Gates, Sylvia Earle, Alice Waters, Mae Jemison, Cindy Sherman, and more.


In a TIME interview, Dörr says she uses an iPhone because it offers great pictures anytime, anywhere, and it because "feels less intrusive" to the subject when the photo is captured with an iPhone instead of a standard camera. Dörr's images are unique because she uses only natural light and sometimes a reflector to capture women who are often photographed with more lighting and production equipment.
I like the simplicity of how these pictures are made. But the best part is that as a photographer, you feel extremely light and free. It is almost as if I can make pictures with my hand. There's no noise, gadgets, tools or plugs--just the subject and myself.

I was always trying to imagine these portraits as paintings. I'm fascinated by the landscapes and topographies from women's faces, their stories and context. I'm interested in the way life and time is writing on all of them--not just with physical marks but also with more spiritual traces.
Dörr says the women she photographed were "surprised" to be the subject of a photoshoot with an iPhone and no other equipment, and that oftentimes, she did her work in just minutes. The shortest shoot was two minutes and the longest shoot lasted 20 minutes.

Each portrait was captured using the regular iPhone camera with the square format, and automatic HDR was turned on for more lighting detail in the photographs.


Dörr's full interview can be read over at TIME, as can an accompanying piece on how TIME Director of Photography Kira Pollack discovered Dörr and recruited her to work on the project.


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OLED iPhone 8 Rumored to Ship Sometime After Standard iPhone 7s Models

Apple's upcoming OLED iPhone 8 will not ship out alongside the standard LCD-equipped iPhone 7s and iPhone 7s Plus, reports TechCrunch, citing "trusted sources."

The high-end iPhone 8 will instead "ship out at a later time," but TechCrunch says it is unclear how long it will be between the availability of the two more affordable models and the iPhone 8.


Apple is planning its iPhone-centric event for Tuesday, September 12, and rumors have suggested the company will start accepting device pre-orders on Friday, September 15, with the first of the new iPhones becoming available on Friday, September 22.

If TechCrunch's information is correct, it's possible Apple will allow people to submit orders for the iPhone 8, but those orders may not ship out until sometime later in the year. Presumably, the iPhone 7s and the iPhone 7s Plus will ship out as planned in September.

Just this morning, The Wall Street Journal said iPhone 8 manufacturing issues could lead to extended supply shortages and shipping delays. Due to problems creating the OLED displays for the device and difficulties integrating Touch ID under the display (a plan that was later abandoned) Apple is said to be approximately about a month behind on its manufacturing timetable.

We have been hearing persistent rumors about serious iPhone 8 supply constraints for months. While it's true that supply issues plague every new iPhone release, especially when it comes to the most popular models, warnings of supply problems have been notably more prominent this year.

Trusted KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has said the iPhone 8 will see "severe" supply shortages following its release and that it could take into the early months of 2018 for Apple to reach supply/demand balance, while a July report from Japanese site Mac Otakara said Apple may not start shipping the device to consumers until October or early November.

Related Roundup: iPhone 8

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Fitness App ‘Streaks Workout’ Available for Free as Apple’s App of the Week

Each week, Apple chooses an "App of the Week" to highlight in the App Store, making it free to download for seven days. This week's pick is a fitness app called Streaks Workout, which is normally priced at $2.99.

Streaks Workout was first launched in December of 2015 and has never before been free to download.


Described as a "personal trainer that you actually want to use," Streaks Workout is designed to offer up exercises that require no equipment and can be done anywhere. As described by Apple's App Store editors:
Sometimes we get so intimidated by complex exercise plans that we just give up and seek solace in the snack cupboard. Streaks Workout, like its to-do list sibling, eases us in by breaking down workouts into fun, easy-to-tackle chunks. In as little as six minutes--or more if we're feeling ambitious--we've done our daily exercise and charted our progress. Why didn't anyone tell us it could be this simple?
The app features 18 exercises to choose from and four different workout lengths (6, 12, 18, and 30 minutes). There's a built-in timer, exercise demonstrations, and statistics that can be tracked over time. All workouts are also uploaded to Apple's Health app.

Streaks Workout is available for the iPhone, Apple Watch, iPad, and Apple TV.

Streaks Workout can be downloaded for free for the next seven days, and after that, a new App of the Week will be chosen. [Direct Link]


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iCloud Mail Unavailable for Some Users

Apple's iCloud Mail servers seem to be experiencing some downtime, with multiple reports on Twitter suggesting the service is unavailable for a number of users.

iCloud Mail issues appear to have started just before 2:00 p.m. Pacific Time, which is around when we here at MacRumors first noticed problems with our own accounts.


Affected users are seeing pop up alerts when attempting to access their iCloud Mail messages. Some alerts are blank, while others let users know there was a problem loading Mail.

At this time, Apple's System Status page is not reporting any outages. It's not clear how many people are experiencing problems with Mail, but not everyone is affected.

Tag: iCloud

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Apple’s Greg Joswiak: Siri Wasn’t Engineered to Be Trivial Pursuit

In iOS 11, Apple's AI-based personal assistant Siri has a much more natural voice that goes a long way towards making Siri sound human like. Siri speaks with a faster, smoother cadence with elongated syllables and pitch variation, a noticeable departure from the more machine like sound in iOS 10.

The team behind Siri, including Siri senior director Alex Acero, has worked for years to improve the way Siri speaks, according to a new interview Acero did alongside Apple VP of marketing Greg Joswiak with Wired. While Siri's voice recognition capabilities were powered by a third-party company early on in Siri's life, Acero's team took over Siri development a few years back, leading to several improvements to the personal assistant since then.

Siri is powered by deep learning and AI, technology that has much improved her speech recognition capabilities. According to Wired, Siri's raw voice recognition capabilities are now able to correctly identify 95 percent of users' speech, on par with rivals like Alexa and Cortana.

Apple is still working to overcome negative perceptions about Siri, and blames many of the early issues on the aforementioned third-party partnership.
"It was like running a race and, you know, somebody else was holding us back," says Greg Joswiak, Apple's VP of product marketing. Joswiak says Apple always had big plans for Siri, "this idea of an assistant you could talk to on your phone, and have it do these things for you in a more easy way," but the tech just wasn't good enough. "You know, garbage in, garbage out," he says.
Joswiak says Apple's aim from the beginning has been to make Siri a "get-s**t-done" machine. "We didn't engineer this thing to be Trivial Pursuit!" he told Wired. Apple wants Siri to serve as an automated friend that can help people do more.


One unique Siri attribute is its ability to work in multiple languages. Siri supports English, French, Dutch, Mandarin, Cantonese, Finnish, Hebrew, Malay, Arabic, Italian, and Spanish, and more, including dialect variants (like English in the UK and Australia) and accents. The Siri team combines pre-existing databases of local speech with local voice talent and on-device dictation, transcribing and dissecting the content to find all of the individual sounds in a given language and all of the ways those sounds are pronounced.

In areas where Apple offers spoken dictation but no Siri support, it's gathering data for future Siri support, and in places where Siri is already available, spoken interactions between user and device (gathered anonymously) are used to improve algorithms and train the company's neural network.

Creating the right voice for Siri in a given language hinges on the proper voice talent, and Apple uses an "epic search" with hundreds of people to find someone who sounds helpful, friendly, spunky, and happy without overdoing it. Once the right person is found, Apple records them for weeks at a time to create the right sound. So far, Apple has repeated this process for all 21 languages Siri supports.

Ultimately, Acero and his Siri team are aiming to make Siri sound more like a trusted person than a robot, creating an attachment to the AI that will "make Siri great" even when Siri fails to answer a query properly. Apple also wants to make people more aware of what Siri can and can't do and that it exists in the first place, which is why iOS 11 includes Siri-centric features like cross-device syncing and a better understanding of user interests and preferences.

Wired's full piece, which goes into much more detail on how Siri recognizes various aspects of speech and how Apple chooses voice talent can be read over on the site.

Tag: Siri

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AirPods Shipping Estimates Improve to 1 to 2 Weeks

Apple is one step closer to achieving supply/demand balance for its AirPods, and the highly desired earphones are now shipping out from the online Apple Store in just one to two weeks in the United States, Canada, UK, Australia, and several other countries around the world.

According to Apple's website in the United States, AirPods ordered today will be delivered between September 21 and September 28, the best estimates we've seen since the AirPods became available for purchase.


AirPods have been in short supply since launch. For many weeks, AirPods shipping estimates were at six weeks, but stock improved enough in early August that shipping estimates dropped to four weeks. Later in the month, estimates improved to two to three weeks before hitting one to two weeks today.

At this rate, Apple will be close to achieving an adequate supply later this month or at the beginning of October.

During Apple's third quarter earnings call, Apple CEO Tim Cook said Apple had boosted AirPods production capacity and was "working very hard" to get AirPods to customers as quickly as possible.

Though AirPods have been hard to come by from the online Apple Store, Apple retail stores have occasionally received stock and third-party retailers like Best Buy and various carrier stores have been able to offer AirPods with faster shipping on a regular basis.

Priced at $159, Apple's wire-free AirPods have been incredibly popular thanks to features like long battery life, a simple charge case, infrared sensors to detect when they're in the ear, touch-based gestures, and the W1 chip that improves Bluetooth connection and facilitates quick transfers between different devices.

Tag: AirPods

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Elevation Lab Debuts New ElevationDock 4 for iPhone and iPad

Elevation Lab made a name for itself with the ultra popular Elevation Dock, which was introduced in 2012 through a Kickstarter project that brought in over a million dollars.

Today, Elevation Lab is unveiling its newest dock, the ElevationDock 4, an amalgamation of everything the company has learned about docks over the course of the last five years.


ElevationDock 4 features a compact design that's meant to take up minimal space on a desk. Adjustment knobs allow it to fit an iPhone and a case that's up to 3.5mm thick, and it's designed to work one-handed, a feature few other docks can offer.


It has an 18° back angle with a +/-4° adjustment so the tilt can be changed for an ideal setup on a desk or nightstand, and the Lightning connector is designed to flex only under high torque to keep the iPhone stable and upright.

The dock is Made for iPhone certified and comes with a built-in Lightning cable. Construction wise, it features stainless steel adjustment knobs and a medical grade silicone overmolded body. It's available in Matte White with a 5-ft braided blue cord or Matte Black with a 5-ft dark braided cord.


Because of its study construction and stable base, the ElevationDock 4 is compatible with both the iPhone and the iPad. It will work with iPads as large as the 10.5-inch iPad Pro.

ElevationDock 4 can be purchased from the Elevation Lab website for $59. Orders will start shipping out in two weeks.


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