Apple CEO Tim Cook is in Shanghai amid hopes a shiny new store will help drive stalled iPhone sales

Apple BKC launch Tim Cook
(Image credit: Palash Volvoikar/iMore)

Apple CEO Tim Cook is in China currently as the company gets ready to open its latest flagship store in Shanghai. The new store arrives as the country appears to be turning its back on the iPhone 15 lineup amid a downturn in sales that Cook will no doubt hope to arrest.

Following the news that Apple's iPhone sales in China declined 24% in the first six weeks of 2024 Cook's visit comes not only at a time when a new store is on the horizon but Apple is in the midst of a battle with Chinese brands like Huawei. And while the new store won't singlehandedly turn things around, it's an impressive spectacle. The store, located next to the landmark Jing’an Temple from which it gets its Apple Jing’an name, looks every bit the flagship store. And Apple says it has its best-ever lineup of products just waiting for new homes.

Cook regularly visits China for a variety of reasons and was there last October amid reports that the iPhone 15 wasn't selling as well as expected.

Slowing sales, new stores

CNBC detailed Cook's visit to China, noting that a post to the CEO's official Weibo account showed him " taking a stroll along one of the city’s popular tourist districts and having breakfast with Chinese actor and television personality Zheng Kai."

Cook will no doubt also take in the new Apple Store during his visit, with a press release claiming that it will become "a must-see destination in Shanghai."

“We’re thrilled to open Apple Jing’an — a store that seamlessly blends the traditional with the modern and perfectly complements this historic neighborhood in Shanghai,” Deirdre O’Brien, Apple’s senior vice president of Retail, said via the press release. “From our phenomenal iPhone lineup to the new 13- and 15- inch MacBook Air, Apple Jing’an brings all of our products and services together with an amazing team to create a truly magical shopping experience for our customers.”

The store employs more than 150 people and is "ready to offer excellent service to customers," Apple adds, but whether that will be enough to convince those customers not to buy homegrown brands remains to be seen.

The anti-iPhone sentiment isn't new, however. The Chinese government banned the use of iPhones in its buildings in September last year, just a month before it welcomed Cook for a meeting with Commerce Minister Wang Wentao.

If Apple cannot kickstart iPhone 15 sales soon, it'll find itself getting closer and closer to the arrival of its replacement. The iPhone 16 and iPhone 16 Pro handsets are expected to arrive this September and iPhone sales tend to slow as buyers ready themselves for a newer model and choose to wait for it to arrive before making a purchase.

It isn't expected that either will offer any particularly big reasons to upgrade for existing iPhone 15 or iPhone 15 Pro owners, however. Rather, the biggest news of the year is likely to be the iOS 18 update and an anticipated focus on AI technologies. It's likely most, if not all of those features will be available for current models which could give buyers a reason to stick with their current handset rather than upgrade to the next best iPhone.

Apple is expected to unveil iOS 18 at the WWDC 2024 event that's likely to take place in June. It'll then be made available for public download in the fall if previous release patterns are any indication.

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Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.

  • FFR
    That increase in Huawei sales is represented by the green sliver on the chart.

    Apple is certainly doomed