On Tuesday, Apple posted a response to battery issues related to the iPhone 6S which have gained much attention amongst social media users in China over the past month. The statement which was posted on the company’s customer support page relegated the issue to a ‘small number of customers’.
However, the problem, which causes phones to shutdown to ‘protect its electronics’, may be much larger than originally anticipated. According to reports, the phones in question were manufactured in the Fall of 2015 and the battery problem is due to a handling issue during assembly. While the company is reportedly working on a software update to solve the issue, it is unclear how this will solve the problem.
Apple has remained relatively silent on the issue, which first surfaced on social media more than a month ago. According to reports in the Wall Street Journal, a Shanghai-based consumer activist group with ties to the Chinese government is pressuring Apple to be more forthcoming about issue.
In addition to reports of battery failures leading to the phones shutting down, the Shanghai Consumer Council has also received complaints of iPhones spontaneously catching fire. These complaints add to Apple’s woes in China and have rekindled fears following similar issues with Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7.
The Samsung phones were ultimately recalled after several countries banned their use due to public safety concerns. While Apple has been quick to point out that the iPhone 6S battery problems do not pose a risk to consumers, many users in China remain skeptical.
China represents an important market for Apple as growth in high-end mobile phones has slowed in the U.S. and Europe. However, Apple has struggled to gain share in China in the face of strong local competition which includes the likes of Oppo, Huawei, and Xiaomi who have moved in the higher-end phones in recent years. Many of these phones are more tailored for the needs of the Chinese market.
While Apple is facing growing concerns in China, initial reports indicate that U.S. sales of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus grew at a faster rate than last year’s iPhone 6s. Some analysts believe this may be due to the nature of iPhone releases as the company announces a completely new model in even numbered years with an incremental increase in odd numbered years.
Even though the jump in iPhone 7 sales has helped to move Apple’s market share in the U.S. market above 40% for the first time in years, Samsung still retains a dominant position with nearly 58% of all cell phones in the U.S. As such it is unclear whether the jump in market share is a short-term phenomenon or an indication of Apple’s ability to win back share in its home market.
As of Thursday morning, in New York shares of Apple were trading up .72% at $111.83.