If Everyone in China Has a Smartphone, What Does Apple Do Now?

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A report this morning from Taiwan’s DigiTimes cites the latest report from China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) on the number of Chinese subscribers to mobile communication services at the end of November. According to MIIT, the country has 1.41 billion subscribers. The CIA World Factbook in July estimated the country’s population at 1.379 billion, and Worldometers pegs the population as of Christmas Day at 1.412 billion.

Of course some people have multiple subscriptions and some have none, but the numbers are striking in any event. Particularly in light of reports that surfaced Monday regarding sales of the Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhone X in China.

Analysts at Chengdu-based Sinolink Securities have dropped their estimate of current quarter shipments of iPhone X by 10 million units to 35 million. Not all those would have gone to China, but a saturated market for handsets in the world’s most populous country is not good news for the world’s most valuable company.

Another Taiwanese newspaper cited unnamed supply chain officials who said Apple itself had trimmed is first fiscal quarter sales forecast from 50 million units to 30 million.

The reports have put share prices on a downward slope for many of Apple’s big suppliers. Glass cover maker Lens Technology has dipped nearly 8.5% and battery maker Desay has dropped nearly 6%. The unnamed sources also said that Foxconn (Hon Hai Precision Industry Co.), Apple’s sole assembler of iPhone X, has stopped recruiting new employees.

The DigiTimes report on Chinese subscriber numbers in November noted the following data points:

  • 3G users total 139.12 million (9.9% of all subscribers)
  • 4G users total 973.32 million (69%)
  • Mobile internet access users total 1.252 billion

Those totals are up 0.48% compared with October and 6.86% year over year.

Another rather startling data point is that the number of Chinese subscribers to fixed-line telephone services is a mere 195.16 million, down 0.5% since October and down 7.2% year over year.

Apple’s stock traded down 2.3% in Tuesday’s premarket session at $170.95 in a 52-week range of $114.76 to $177.20. The 12-month consensus price target is $187.58.