Ahead of iPhone X launch, China vendors cut prices of iPhone 8 models

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Chinese vendors have slashed the price of Apple’s iPhone 8 by up to a fifth in a bid to lure customers amid sluggish demand ahead of the launch of the tech giant’s much-anticipated iPhone X on Friday.

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Buyers can now snap up Apple’s new iPhone 8 Plus and the more basic iPhone 8 models at discounts of between nearly 14 percent and 20 percent in mainland China, where iPhones have been known to change hands for as much as four times the price in Hong Kong.

The move comes as data from research firm Canalys shows Apple’s China smartphone shipments grew 40 percent in the third quarter from a year ago to 11 million units, marking the U.S. company’s best performance in China in eight quarters.

Some analysts, however, cautioned whether that could be sustained.

“Apple’s growth this quarter is only temporary. The high sell-in caters to the pent-up demand of iPhone upgraders in the absence of the iPhone X,” said Canalys analyst Mo Jia.

“Price cuts on earlier models after announcing the iPhone 8 have also helped. However, Apple is unlikely to sustain this growth in Q4.”

Apple in China didn’t immediately respond to request for comment.

Customers can now order a basic model of a 64GB iPhone 8 for 4,788 yuan ($722.61) from China’s top home appliance retailer Suning Commerce Group Co Ltd, via its online shopping platform. A more expensive iPhone 8 Plus 256GB model costs 6,888 yuan ($1,039.54).

That’s a significant reduction from the original price tags in China of 5,888 yuan and 7,988 yuan, respectively.

The basic iPhone 8 is available through e-commerce player for 4,875 yuan ($735.74), with the expensive model costing 7,098 yuan ($1,071.23).

In Hong Kong, the basic iPhone 8 costs HK$5,988 ($767.55) from the Apple store, while the more expensive version sells for HK$8,188 ($1,049.56)

In recent years, hundreds of thousands of Apple devices were smuggled across the border into mainland China, where they could fetch as much as four times the price in Hong Kong.

But much of that trade has been wiped out as Apple has opened more stores in China, recent launches have been simultaneous in China and Hong Kong rather than staggered, and domestic Chinese phone brands have increased their share of the world’s biggest smartphone market.

Apple last week countered concerns of muted demand for its iPhone X, saying pre-orders for the 10th anniversary phone were “off the charts”.

Reporting by Donny Kwok; Editing by Anne Marie Roantree and Ian Geoghegan