Apple Prepares Rare iPhone Discount for China Buyers

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Apple Inc. announced a rare retail promotion in China on Monday, offering four days of discounts on its top-tier iPhones and related accessories in advance of the launch of its next-generation devices.

The company, usually reluctant to alter pricing, will take up to 600 yuan ($89) off the price of its top-line iPhone 13 Pro series between July 29 and Aug. 1, according to a notice on its website. To be eligible, buyers have to use one of a select number of payment platforms, such as Ant Group Co.’s Alipay. Certain AirPods and Apple Watch models are also part of the promotion.

The discounts come as China’s economy tries to bounce back from major Covid-19 lockdowns in business hubs Shanghai and Beijing, which have hurt sales of leading domestic smartphone brands from Xiaomi Corp. to Vivo and Oppo. Apple bucked the trend by registering healthy growth in China shipments in June, according to national statistics, though the discounts suggest even it has surplus inventory heading into the latter half of the year.

Weakening consumer demand, inflation and supply chain issues triggered a 9% fall in global smartphone shipments in the second quarter, research firm Canalys said this month. Chinese companies took the brunt of that hit, registering double-digit declines.

The Cupertino, California-based company is due to report fiscal third-quarter results on Thursday and Apple is expected to post its slowest quarterly sales growth since the early days of the pandemic. Global economic events are catching up with the company, which plans to slow spending and hiring across some teams next year, Bloomberg has reported. Apple shares were little changed at $154.44 Monday morning in New York.

Apple has traditionally kept iPhone prices unchanged between generations, though this year’s economic upheaval has already pushed it to one unusual move: raising prices in Japan in response to the drastically weakened yen.

The company offers several payment options in China, including installment plans and lower pricing for students. But it has refrained from discounting its flagship products in the country for years.