It’s no secret that Apple has been struggling with flagging sales of recent iPhone models in China; in fact weak iPhone sales were a significant part of the reason why Apple was forced to revise its revenue guidance for its most recent quarter. The iPhone maker is obviously seeking ways to bolster sales in China in the short term, and if a recent rumour is to be believed, looks like it may be trying to do so simply by releasing a new color option.
According to a leak from a Chinese blogger discovered by iPhoneHacks, Apple is preparing to release the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max in a new red version, adding to the existing silver, space gray, and gold models. The report goes on to note that the new edition will be dubbed “China Red” rather than the usual (PRODUCT)RED branding, but it seems most likely that this naming will be exclusive to the Chinese market, as Apple does not market its other red iPhone variants under (PRODUCT)RED in China either. Branding a red iPhone as “China Red” would be a new initiative however, and could be intended to help draw more attention and stir up more consumer interest in Apple’s flagship iPhone models.
Apple’s sale of (PRODUCT)RED variants of its iPhone models is nothing new, and the company has usually launched the red-colored versions of its iPhone models in the spring, likely to stimulate new purchases between iPhone release cycles. The company launched its red iPhone 7 in March 2017, and a red iPhone 8 in March 2018, although no (PRODUCT)RED iPhone X ever materialized last spring, for whatever reason, leaving the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus as the only current models in that category.
Apple actually bucked this trend with the iPhone XR, which came in a (PRODUCT)RED version right out of the gate. However, Apple’s choice to offer the iPhone XR in a wide range of color options likely also factored into this decision, with the (PRODUCT)RED version joining the colorful array of blue, yellow, and coral models.
Although the iPhone X never got the (PRODUCT)RED treatment, Apple did choose to add a gold variation to its successors — this year’s iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max. Whether Apple ever planned to release it in red is an open question, with many assuming that the (PRODUCT)RED version of the iPhone XR would suffice, in the same way that the lower-end iPhone 8 did last year.
If the rumours are true, however, it looks like Apple plans to get a jump on the Chinese market by getting a “China Red” version of its premium iPhone model out the door sooner rather than later. With Chinese OEMs ready to launch their 2019 iPhones in the coming weeks, Apple is likely concerned about taking another hit on iPhone sales in that country and trying to quickly pique interest in any way that it can; the “China Red” versions of the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max are expected to be available by the end of this month.
The rumour doesn’t speak about whether the red versions will eventually be released to the larger worldwide market outside of China. If so, they would likely gain the standard (PRODUCT)RED branding elsewhere, but it’s also possible that Apple plans to make the red iPhone XS exclusive to China in an attempt to bolster sales further by making it feel like a special edition that’s only available to Chinese users. Such a move would make sense in light of recent suggestions that Apple may need to make certain design concessions to the Chinese market, possibly even designing a new iPhone model specifically for China. While Apple has already made inevitable technical concessions, such as adding physical Dual-SIM support to its 2018 iPhones, a “China Red” edition of Apple’s flagship iPhone could be a good way for the company to dip its toe in the waters of appealing to Chinese users with exclusive designs prior to committing to a more deeply Chinese-tailored iPhone.