Apple 2.0

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Katy Huberty: iPhone 5C could push Apple to No. 1 in China

August 20, 2013: 4:37 AM ET

AlphaWise survey finds Chinese willing to pay up to RMB 4,000 ($486) for the Apple brand.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

FORTUNE -- Morgan Stanley's Katy Huberty has some good news for Apple (AAPL) and bad news for everybody else trying to sell smartphones in China.

On Monday, the same day the Wall Street Journal put its imprimatur on rumors that have been floating around for weeks -- namely, that Apple is set to launch a pair of iPhones in September, including a lower-cost iPhone 5C -- Huberty issued a note to clients with the results of a survey of 2,000 Chinese mobile phone owners.

The proprietary AlphaWise poll was designed to measure how many affluent Chinese consumers would buy the new iPhones and how much they'd be willing to pay.

The key findings: (I quote)

Consumers' interest in iPhone remains steady if Apple continues its high-end strategy 

  • 23% of potential smartphone buyers surveyed chose the iPhone, slightly above our previous survey in January 2013 (19%).
  • Intended repurchase rate for iPhone is higher than other smartphones.

iPhone 5C will drive incremental volume growth

  • Chinese consumers consider US$486 (or RMB 4,000) to be an acceptable price range for the lower-priced iPhone, 22% higher than where we think Apple will price it.
  • In contrast, the acceptable price ranges for Samsung S4 Mini and HTC One Mini were lower than the expected price.

A partnership with China Mobile will increase Apple's smartphone share in China

  • 29% of potential smartphone buyers would purchase the iPhone if it were compatible with China Mobile's 3G and 4G networks.

The bottom line, according to Huberty: The new iPhone 5C could boost Apple's market share in China by 13.3 points (and reduce Samsung's by 6.7 points). A carrier deal with China Mobile (CHL) could raise Apple's share by another 6 points (and lower Samsung's by 4.6 points).

If both things happen, Apple could find itself, once again, the No. 1 vendor the world's largest smartphone phone market.

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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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