A China-only iPhone model could be on the cards that shuns Face ID in favour of an under-display fingerprint sensor, if reports from regional press are to be believed.
There’s word that Apple is considering releasing a China-specific iPhone model that drops the innards necessary for the Face ID authentication currently used across the iPhone X, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR, and instead reverts to a Touch ID-like fingerprint-based authentication method, with a twist.
Related: Best iPhone 2019
It’s expected that if this model does materialise, it’ll be the first iPhone to employ an under-display fingerprint sensor, which would also result in a significantly smaller notch, as the additional TrueDepth technology that powers Face ID would not be required.
While making region-specific iPhones is not completely out of character for Apple, until now such instances have only really materialised as a result of adhering to different region’s frequency bands and broadcasting technologies.
To create a new handset that introduces a discernably different design and sports new hardware unavailable to would-be iPhone owners in other markets would set a new precedent for the company.
So why would Apple be so willing to break convention? In short: sales are on the decline.
Apple’s phones are too highly priced for the target consumers in China and, as such, it has less than an 8% share of the country’s mobile market (according to a report by Canalys covering Q1, 2019). For comparison, the company accounts for almost 40% of the US’ mobile market when looking across the same time frame (using data from Counterpoint Research).
According to Chinese publication Global Times, local users look for flagships priced at or around the ¥5000 (CNY) mark, equivalent to approximately £580. Even with multiple price-cuts already this year, Apple’s current top blowers – the XS and XS Max, land high above this threshold.
Related: Best Android phones 2019
It accounts for the company’s heavily-declining sales and the uptick in sales of more affordable rival flagship phones from local Chinese competitors such as Huawei, Oppo and Vivo.
A new model of iPhone that’s more cost-effective for Apple to produce might be just the ticket to turn its fortunes around in what is the world’s largest smartphone market. But we’ll only know whether such a play has legs if Apple turns these rumours into reality.