Just days after Nikkei Asian Review reported that 20 Chinese companies were allegedly supporting Huawei in a boycott of Apple’s iPhones, Huawei itself tweeted an official New Year’s greeting—from an iPhone.
Despite an international incident involving the arrest of Huawei’s CFO Meng Wanzhou on fraud charges related to violating US trade sanctions against Iran, and the alleged Asian iPhone boycott announced by Nikkei, the Chinese phone maker’s public relations group continued to use iPhones in brand promotion, as MKBHD video blogger Marques Brownlee noted.
Screenshots of the Twitter incident were shared on China’s popular Sina Weibo social network, where users shared colorful Chinese idioms that skewer even when machine-translated into English: “Who mandates Huawei employees use Huawei phones? Not to mention that this isn’t the mobile phone department,” and “Which mobile phone is best, the employee with the clearest stomach!”
The fact that a couple of dozen Chinese companies were attempting to promote the exclusive use of Huawei phones made headlines among bloggers attempting to perpetuate the myth that Apple was facing major problems in China—a country where iPhones are comfortably positioned as the largest and most entrenched platform among affluent users of premium phone models.
According to Counterpoint Research’s Market Monitor, Apple captured a 47 percent share of the premium segment above $400 in the December quarter and was the “driving force” for premium expansion in a market that was otherwise shrinking.
This is an increase from the previous quarter when Apple accounted for 43% of premium phones. Apple accounts for 61 percent of all sales in phones priced between $600 and $800, and 79 percent of units sold above $800.
However, while reporting on the alleged voluntary boycott of iPhones in China, reports seemed to overlook the fact that Huawei is outright banned from use by the US government, and that the US is actively working to prevent its allies from using Huawei phones or network equipment.
That’s because, as a U.S. Senator stated in February, “Huawei is effectively an arm of the Chinese government, and it’s more than capable of stealing information from U.S. officials by hacking its devices,” adding. “There are numerous other companies that can meet our technology requirements, and we should not make it any easier for China to spy on us.”
Despite being the second largest Android phone manufacturer, Huawei has little penetration in the United States, one of the largest markets for premium models. It, like other Android manufacturers, relies heavily on large volumes of lower-end phones sold to price-sensitive markets, resulting in marginal profits. Despite the Chinese government’s support, this is making it difficult for the company to compete with Apple in silicon.
Similarly, the Nikkei news agency has repeatedly spread the myth that Apple’s suppliers are in financial trouble and that no one can afford its premium models. The Nikkei reported in 2016 that iPhone 6s production would be reduced by “around 30 percent” based on sources attributed only to “Japanese and South Korean parts suppliers.”
Last year, Nikki flatly stated that iPhone X sales were “disappointing,” which was completely false. It also claimed Apple was slashing iPhone X production orders in half, cutting 20 million units “from the figure of over 40 million units envisaged at the time of its release in November,” numbers that appeared absurd on the surface.
Apple had previously sold 50-60 million iPhones in total in its January quarter and did not anticipate selling 40 million $999 iPhone X models in addition to the baseline of iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 models it was producing concurrently. Despite years of being repeatedly wrong, the media continued to carry this “report” as news from a reliable source.
Nikkei backed up its nonsense with claims of “slower than expected holiday sales” in the United States, China, and Europe. This year, it repeated the same claims about Apple’s new models, using the same “staff” byline and anonymous sources claiming to understand Apple’s supply chain.
That once again helped deceive Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal, whose junior writers hired from blogs jumped on the bandwagon to claim that Apple’s iPhone sales were tanking due to pricing and that the most advanced iPhones ever allegedly lacked “innovation.”
According to Tripp Mickle of the Wall Street Journal, Apple “is slashing planned production” of the iPhone X “in a sign of weaker-than-expected demand,” while Mark Gurman of Bloomberg was so confident in “lackluster” iPhone sales that he stated, “Apple Inc. earnings this week will confirm what most investors have finally accepted: the iPhone X didn’t live up to the hype.”
Stories about Apple’s supply chain uncertainty are nearly as common as paid Android endorsements from celebrities who still use iPhones. Companies that license Android have a long history of undermining their brand value by preferring to deliver marketing messages via iPhones.
Huawei paid “Wonder Woman” actress Gal Gadot to serve as its brand ambassador for the high-end Mate 10 Pro less than a year ago, but the star posted her endorsement via her iPhone.
Sania Mirza, a professional tennis player, tweeted the following in May: “I’m not a techie, but I’ve been enjoying using the OnePlus 3T for the past few months. More information can be found at onepl.us/a5 #oneplusstarcommunity.” It, too, was sent via iPhone.
After the Chinese government’s CCTV propaganda channel began airing reports claiming that Apple was “biased against Chinese consumers in its warranty and customer service policies,” a series of orchestrated tweets from various celebrities and other well-known personalities voiced unison disapproval of Apple on cue after the broadcast, many of which were sent from iPads and iPhones.
Samsung created a fantasy soccer league in 2013 to “combine fans’ universal love for football and GALAXY devices,” but then the legendary leader of its fantasy team, Franz Beckenbauer, tweeted his canned endorsement from his iPhone.
Shortly after, in April, Spanish tennis player David Ferrer tweeted that he was “configuring S Health on my new #GalaxyS4 to help with training @SamsungMobile,” all via Twitter, que Contento Estoy con mi iPhone.
T-Mobile CEO John Legere had intended to use Twitter to draw attention to Samsung Mobile’s latest Note 3 phablet but instead did so via his iPhone 5s.
It’s not just Android that has received phony praise from iOS users. Oprah Winfrey used an iPad to endorse Microsoft’s Surface in 2012, using the hashtag “#FavoriteThings” to say she had purchased a dozen of them for Christmas gifts.
In February 2011, after BlackBerry hired Alicia Keys as Creative Director, she sent a personal tweet from her iPhone, then deleted it and claimed her account had been “hacked.”