The Korea Herald


[KH Explains] Why Apple's iPhone15 is selling better in Korea than China, Japan

Along with hefty cash incentives, Apple Pay, recording app drive iPhone sales on Galaxy's home turf

By Jie Ye-eun

Published : Nov. 22, 2023 - 15:46

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Apple's latest iPhone 15 (Apple) Apple's latest iPhone 15 (Apple)

Apple’s latest iPhone 15 series is enjoying more popularity than its predecessor in Korea, bucking the lukewarm sales trend in neighboring countries such as China and Japan.

Sales of the latest iPhone lineup -- the iPhone 15, iPhone 15 Plus, iPhone 15 Pro, and iPhone 15 Pro Max -- jumped 41.9 percent in the first month of its official release here on Oct. 13, compared to that of the iPhone 14 series from a year prior, according to market tracker Atlas Research and Consulting.

Sales of the smaller and cheaper iPhone 15, in particular, more than doubled during the same period, while the highest-priced iPhone 15 Pro Max saw a 42.3 percent growth in sales.

The iPhone 15 Pro made up almost 50 percent of the sales portion, followed by the iPhone 15 with 30.7 percent.

The upbeat iPhone sales on the home turf of Apple’s archrival Samsung Electronics come in stark contrast to China and Japan, the key markets for Apple’s iPhones.

China, the second-largest market for iPhone after North America, saw a 4.5 percent fall in iPhone 15 sales in the first 17 days of release, according to market tracker Counterpoint Research.

The nation’s increasingly patriotic consumption is believed to have affected the sales of foreign brands, prompting Apple to offer discounts on the new phones.

In Japan where consumers prefer smaller smartphones, sales of iPhone 12 and 13 Minis more than doubled in the first week of the new iPhone 15 launch, according to the Japanese daily Nikkei.

As Apple has suspended sales of Mini phones on its official website, the report said, Japanese consumers are turning to secondhand shops online to purchase the phones.

In Korea, industry sources say, cash incentives offered by telecom carriers are driving up new iPhone sales, together with brand-new services here such as Apple Pay and recording apps.

“Telecom companies are competing with each other to encourage the purchase of a new smartphone by granting hefty cash incentives worth up to 450,000 won ($347.20),” said an industry source on condition of anonymity.

Mobile subsidies are provided by wireless carriers to offset the overall costs of mobile device ownership here. Telecom giants generally offer lower subsidy support for iPhone smartphones than those of Samsung’s flagship Galaxy series, which is worth around 200,000 won on average.

The IT firm’s February launch of its mobile payment service, Apple Pay, and SK Telecom's call recording service launch last month for iPhones through its AI app, A., were additional favorable factors, the sources said. Unlike Samsung's dialer app, Apple did not have a call recording feature here.

With Korean consumers' increasing preference for Apple's smartphones, whether Korea will be included in the first-tier or second-tier group when it comes to the follow-up iPhone launch is drawing attention here. Korea was among the third-tier group this year.

Despite the upbeat sales in Korea, sources forecast that the US tech giant will be less likely to launch the iPhones earlier in the Samsung-dominated smartphone market here.

"Korea has been in the third-tier group due to the smaller market size for Apple since it is the home ground of Samsung. Apple tends to watch more closely on the sales trend of its archrival Samsung, especially when it launches new phones here," a separate anonymous source told The Korea Herald.