Showing posts with label Apple. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Apple. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Minquan Road Mobile Phone Street in Zhongshan, China

Although many mobile phone stores exist elsewhere in Zhongshan, Guangdong province, Minquan Road in the central Shiqi District may have the greatest concentration. Below are just a few scenes from there during March earlier this year. Most of the stores sell new phones of brands common in many Chinese cities. The Minquan Xinyi Shopping Center — a collection of stalls selling a variety of lesser known brands, more blatant imitations, or second hand phones — is similar to the Bu Ye Cheng (Long Xiao) Communications Market in Shanghai but much smaller in scale. The photos provide a sense of the brands available and how some stores are changing their look to stay "fresh". They also provide context for a particular store which will be the focus of a later post.

Store featuring Vivo, HTC, Samsung, Apple, Xiaomi, Meizu, Oppo, and Gionee

Store featuring Apple

Android robot promoting the iPhone 6

Store promoting Samsung, Huawei, Vivo, Apple, Xiaomi, and Oppo

A store with a strong Apple theme

Store featuring Oppo and HTC

Promotion for Oppo

Minquan Xinyi Shopping Center

Inside the Minquan Xinyi Shopping Center

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Apple on Windows Above Apple in Shanghai

Above the Nanjing East Road Apple Store in Shanghai, a mall's digital billboard displayed an advertisement for the Apple Watch.

Apple Watch advertisement on large video screen above an Apple Store in Shanghai

And like what I saw at a mall in Haikou, I discovered the digital billboard runs on Windows.

Apple Watch advertisement on large video screen with an open Windows folder visible above an Apple Store in Shanghai

This case just included an added touch of irony.

Perhaps-not-needed-but-would-rather-error-on-the-side-of-openness-disclosure: I previously worked as a user experience researcher at Microsoft China. I didn't work on any projects directly related to digital billboards, partly because they are difficult to carry around.

Monday, February 2, 2015

New Apple Store Opens in Chongqing Without Its Art

Entrance to Jiefangbei Apple Store in Chongqing on opening day

Saturday was the opening day for the new Apple Store at Jiefangbei in Chongqing, China. When I stopped by during the afternoon the store was crowded with people doing some of the things people do in a Apple Store.

crowd at Jiefangbei Apple Store in Chongqing on opening day

three young women in front of a laptop at Jiefangbei Apple Store in Chongqing on opening day

children using iPads at Jiefangbei Apple Store on opening day

demonstration at Jiefangbei Apple Store on opening day

crowd at Jiefangbei Apple Store in Chongqing on opening day

None of this surprised me. What did surprise me, though, was the choice of artwork in the store.

artwork on walls of Jiefangbei Apple Store on opening day

Numerous examples of art made with Apple devices were on display, but there was no sign of the collaborative art Apple previously used to promote the store's opening. I had expected to see the original artwork, which a video shows is not as as large as the apparent copy once covering the stairway entrance. Even after contacting someone in marketing by phone, an Apple Store employee couldn't tell me its current location or why it wasn't on display inside the store.

Anyway, I can't speak to sales, but there was a regular stream of visitors while I was there. Maybe someday I will learn what happened to the art.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Apple Gets Artsy in Chongqing

[Update at end]

Just over a week ago at the Jiefangbei pedestrian shopping area in Chongqing's Yuzhong district, you could see something was curiously hidden.

covered entrance to Jiefangbei Apple Store in Chongqing

When I walked by yesterday, I saw this:

mural by Navid Baraty and YangYang Pan covering entrance to Jiefangbei Apple Store in Chongqing

The cylindrical entrance for the new Apple Store which will open January 31 is now covered with a copy of a mural — the result of a collaboration by photographer Navid Baraty and artist YangYang Pan (潘阳阳). Apple posted a video about the artistic process on its Chinese retail website (HT MacRumors) and someone Apple has posted it on YouTube as well [link updated].

During the brief time I was there, the mural received a bit of attention from passersby.

People photographing mural by Navid Baraty and YangYang Pan covering entrance to Jiefangbei Apple Store in Chongqing

For those in Chongqing who can't until Saturday to visit an Apple Store, there is already an option at the North City Paradise Walk shopping mall in Jiangbei district.

Paradise Walk Apple Store in Chongqing

The store seemed to have a decent crowd yesterday for a Monday afternoon.

Paradise Walk Apple Store in Chongqing seen from above

For those who can wait longer than Saturday, soon Chongqing will have the same number of Apple Stores as Hong Kong. A third store is under construction at the MixC shopping mall in Chongqing's Jiulongpo district. Only Beijing and Shanghai currently have more Apple Stores in China with four each. Single stores can be found in other cities in China — Chengdu, Hangzhou, Shenzhen, Wuxi, and Zhengzhou. The stores in Chongqing are indicative both of Apple's focus in China and the city's own impressive growth.

UPDATE: No need to rush to the Jiefangbei Apple Store if you want to see an art-covered cylinder. I walked by again this afternoon, and the outside art is now gone. Perhaps the lit up Apple logo works better under today's darker skies & wetter weather, and the original artwork will be on display inside when the store opens.

entrance to Jiefangbei Apple Store in Chongqing on a drizzly afternoon

Friday, August 15, 2014

Assorted Technology in China Links: Illogical Business, Xiaomi's Growth, Fake Deals, and Your Apple in China

Several recent articles about technology in China have caught my eye. Some I hope to comment on next week, but I suspect I wont make it to others. So for four of those, here are links, excerpts, and very brief comments.

1. In an interview Lenovo's Chief Executive Yang Yuanqing commented on their competitors in China's mobile phone market:
I would say China is the most competitive market in the world. There are so many local players, and some of them are not logical in how they do business. They don’t want to make money in the short term. We definitely don’t want to lose our leadership position in China, and we must balance growth in market share with profitability.
It would be interesting to hear more of Yang's thoughts about the "not logical" local players and their long term potential.

2. Market analyst Canalys says that at least in one measure Xiaomi has passed Samsung in China:
In little over a year, Xiaomi has risen from being a niche player to become the leading smart phone vendor in the world’s largest market, overtaking Samsung in volume terms in Q2. Xiaomi took a 14% share in China, on the back of 240% year-on-year growth. With Lenovo, Yulong, Huawei, BBK, ZTE, OPPO and K-Touch, the eight Chinese vendors in the top 10 together accounted for a total of 70.7 million units and a 65% market share.
Though as someone from Lenovo might point out, higher volume doesn't necessarily mean higher profits.

3. The profitable e-commerce company Alibaba has made a deal with some luxury brands such as Burberry:
Like many premium brands, Burberry PLC had been fretting about a flood of discount Burberry products—some of them fakes—on Alibaba's two big marketplaces, which accounted for 80% of China's estimated $300 billion in online shopping last year. Burberry hadn't authorized any of those vendors to sell its goods.

Alibaba would do its best to get those products off its sites if Burberry opened its own shop on Alibaba's online mall, Burberry was told, according to people familiar with the talks. Burberry opened a store on Alibaba's Tmall in April.
Some would say this is the pragmatic side of doing business in China.

4. In perhaps another sign of pragmatic decisions, Apple is changing how it stores users' data:
Apple Inc (AAPL.O) has begun keeping the personal data of some Chinese users on servers in mainland China, marking the first time the tech giant is storing user data on Chinese soil . . .

The data will be kept on servers provided by China Telecom Corp Ltd (0728.HK), the country's third-largest wireless carrier, Apple said in a statement on Friday.
The article notes a few issues this change raises, such as data access speeds and privacy. Relevant to these issues is a definition of "some Chinese users" that would indicate exactly who fits into this category. I haven't seen one yet.

And that is all for now.

Friday, June 13, 2014

A Chinese English-Learning Device, a Cross, and an American Apple

The student with the Baicizhan English-learning app on her smartphone isn't the only person I have met in Hengyang who uses mobile technology to improve their language skills.

Several weeks later, an English teaching assistant visiting Hengyang from Xiangtan, Hunan, approached me while I was walking outside. She said she was excited to talk with a native English speaker.

young woman holding a small electronic dictionary and wear a necklace with a cross

Like the student, she carried a mobile device that helped her improve her English. Unlike the student, her device functioned solely as a Chinese-English dictionary. She said she always carried it around as was recommended in an English class she had taken. Compared with an app like Baicizhan, it raises questions about why one might purchase / use a dedicated device versus an app on a smartphone.

Finally, she wore a cross not for religious reasons but because she felt it was a fashionable accessory to her clothes. In fact, they were presented together in the store where she bought them--a not unusual sight in Chinese cities like Hengyang. And similar to my meeting with the university student, I noticed a bit of American spirit.

the young woman's backpack with a US flag colored Apple logo

More on both the mobile and American spirit themes later.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

(I Believe That) I Like "Esa-Pekka's Verse" by Apple

ESPN's "I believe that we will win!" ad left me me a bit surprised and asking a few questions. Another ad I recently saw also left me surprised but did so in a rather positive manner.

The ad by Apple is remarkable for featuring Esa-Pekka Salonen, a conductor and composer of "contemporary classical" music. As Alex Ross notes, despite their incredible talents, artists like Salonen usually doesn't garner much mass-market attention. I would say more except that I don't need to, because Ross already wrote a great piece about the ad on The New Yorker.

Monday, April 21, 2014

A Buggy Experience on a Zhanjiang Student's Mobile Phone

At Guangdong Ocean University in Zhanjiang, I met a student who on her own initiative showed me a photo on her mobile phone.

iPhone displaying a photo of a bug walking across English text

The photo contrasted with a Starbucks photo I saw several days earlier about 1 hour away on a Zhanjiang Normal University student's phone.

Starbucks and a bug are two genuine experiences Zhanjiang students' captured with their mobile phones. On the surface such photos can seem very different, but what they hold in common at deeper levels can be more revealing.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Imitation, Creativity, and a Right-Hander's Dream in Chinese Mobile Phones

As I have mentioned many times before (most recently here), a broad variety of mobile phones are designed, made, and sold in China. During a recent visit to Zhuhai's Jida subdistrict, I took a closer look at a store selling phones not made by better known Chinese brands such as BBK, Oppo, Xiaomi, and Gionee. Although some of the phones imitate other brands, some include "micro-innovations" and some can be rather distinctive from phones commonly available in markets outside of China such as the U.S.

Below, I will share four examples of what I found. My intent is simply to stimulate some thought about the mobile phone domain in China.

an iPoone flip phone with a partial Apple logo and a small pink flip phone with a drawing of a young woman holding a heart

The iPoone above on the left obviously fits into the "inspired-by-Apple" category--a category in which I regularly spot new designs. The "Think Different" phone I saw in Guangzhou and the iPncne phone I saw in Ningxia also fit in this category.

The phone above on the right has no obvious Apple influence and is just one of the many small clamshell phones available with various images.

a Dlor flip phone with a poem and an image of two hands and two rings and a yellow JYING flip phone with a scene of butterflies lit up and a digital clock

The yellow phone on the above right offers a butterfly light show. The shopkeeper made sure I noticed the digital clock on the outside.

The "Dlor" phone on the above left is what most caught my eye that day, so I will provide a few more details about it. These words are above the image of the two hands:
I'm not left-hander
Numerous instances of the same image with almost exactly the same words can be found on a number of Chinese online sites. However, I was not able to pin down the original source.

two five-fingered hands hold a ring, another ring in front of the hands, and the poem "I'm not a left-hander 幸福在我的左边 可我........ 却不是个左撇子 抓不住你"

One reasonable translation of the Chinese is "Happiness is on my left, but I can't catch you since I'm not left-handed".

If you're now puzzled by the poem or wondering why hands with an extra finger were used (did you notice?), you're not alone. Any Chinese friends I have asked expressed some confusion, and examples of confusion can be found online (in Chinese) as well.

Yes, there are many questions to ask. And all of the above phones raise more general questions such as "What motivated the design?" and "Why would somebody purchase this phone?" The answers to these questions could guide the design of new phones, whether they look like the above phones or not, for people in China and in other markets as well. As I first suggested after seeing the Think Different phone in Guangzhou, even when there are imitations, such phones can be a potential source of valuable insight or inspiration for global mobile phone brands.

Finally, there is one question I will answer now. No, despite it fascinating me, I did not buy the Dlor phone. After all, it doesn't suit me since I'm a left-hander.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Fate of the Android Store in Zhuhai, China: Part II

A year and half ago I took a random bus ride in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, and ended up in the town of Nanping. As I explored the area, in a shopping district I stumbled upon a store that caught my eye and wrote about it posts here and here. At the time, there was much buzz about a fake Apple Store in China. As I later pointed out, a large number of unlicensed stores selling Apple's products and to varying degrees looking like Apple Stores could be found throughout China.

However, the store in Nanping seemed especially unique to me. For a refresher, here is the first photo I shared of Zhuhai's Android Store:

Android Store in Nanping, Zhuhai, China
Ah, the memories...

Four months later I returned to Nanping and found the Android Store remained and now had a imitator nearby.

Recently, I was able to return to Nanping yet again. For the Android Store's fans, I have some difficult news to share. Although it retains some of its previous spirit, the Android Store had a bit of a makeover:

Android Store now with a China Mobile sign
At least there's an Android inflatable arch.

A number of other nearby stores also had changed to China Mobile storefront signs as well.

Despite the change, Android Store fans may be able to take heart from something else. The imitator down the street remains mostly the same on the outside and in Xiangwan, another part of Zhuhai far away from Nanping, I saw this store one evening:

store with Android storefront sign and a large Samsung sign inside
It didn't only sell phones with Android though.

In a later post, I will provide a look at some of what the above mobile phone store and others in Zhuhai are now promoting and selling. There are some notable differences from last year.

Monday, November 12, 2012

A New Google Phone in China

Google fans, are you seeking a way to better show your passion for Google? If so, then I may have seen the phone for you at a shop in Changsha, Hunan province.

Mobile phone with the Google logo on its back in Changsha, China

Of course, the Google phone seen above runs Android--in this case OS version 2.3.7.

Android-style homescreen on the Google phone

If you are not sold on the Android experience, though, when turning on the phone you can chose to have it simulate an iPhone-like interface instead (warning: some may now question whether you are a true Google fan).

iPhone style homescreen on the Google phone

The back of the phone's box provides more details about it, including the wide range of colors available (it also lists a slightly different OS version than what the phone itself reported).

back of Google phone box showing phone specs

The woman who showed me the phone was quick to say it was not made by Google. Curiously, the box did not indicate the real brand but did include the Google name in the upper-right corner.

front of Google phone box

However, booting up the phone identified the brand as Awang (A王).

Has Awang received approval from Google to use its name on the phone? I have not asked Google, but I see signs Awang has not followed some of Google's published trademark guidelines. So Google fans, maybe you might want to buy a Google wooden cricket set instead.

I don't plan to conduct an in-depth review of the phone, so just two more quick points:
  • Even if Google did not grant permission for their name to be used on this phone, they can find some solace in the fact a Chinese company presumably believed that using the Google name could benefit their sales in China.
  • I doubt the Google phone will be making an appearance at the "Android Store" I saw in Zhuhai, especially since all the phones being sold there were made by well-known brands. I'd say Awang has a long ways to go before reaching that stage.
More later about the other mobile phones I have seen for sale in Changsha and how they compare to what I have seen elsewhere in China (see here and here for earlier examples of mobile phones "borrowing" Apple's trademarks). And I will also soon share some thoughts about recent news relating to a more pressing concern for Google. Although Google might approve of the Chinese government blocking sales of this Awang phone, overall Google would be thrilled to see less, not more, blocking in China.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Useful and Trendy iPads for Selling Memories

Sometimes what matters most about technology is what it enables you to do.

Two employees holding Apple iPads with sample photos for a marriage photography studio in Changsha, China

Sometimes what matters most about technology is being fashionable.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Mitt Romney and Counterfeit Valves from China

I previously shared this quote of Romney from the second U.S. presidential debate (full transcript here):
We can compete with anyone in the world as long as the playing field is level. China's been cheating over the years. One by holding down the value of their currency. Number two, by stealing our intellectual property; our designs, our patents, our technology. There's even an Apple store in China that's a counterfeit Apple store, selling counterfeit goods. They hack into our computers. We will have to have people play on a fair basis, that's number one.
I argued that even under a generous interpretation of his comment about the Apple store, it was not particularly relevant to whether the "playing field is level" for the U.S. and China. In short, most accounts and my own many experiences do not support a belief that many "fake" Apples stores in China are selling counterfeit Apple products (more about Romney's earlier comment and the many "fake" Apple stores I have seen in China here).

In the third and final U.S. presidential debate both candidates made a few comments about China. Romney again raised the issue of counterfeit products (full transcript here):
We have to say to our friend in China, look, you guys are playing aggressively. We understand it. But this can't keep on going. You can't keep on holding down the value of your currency, stealing our intellectual property, counterfeiting our products, selling them around the world, even to the United States.

I was with one company that makes valves and - and process industries and they said, look, we were - we were having some valves coming in that - that were broken and we had to repair them under warranty and we looked them and - and they had our serial number on them. And then we noticed that there was more than one with that same serial number. They were counterfeit products being made overseas with the same serial number as a U.S. company, the same packaging, these were being sold into our market and around the world as if they were made by the U.S. competitor. This can't go on.
It is notable that Romney mentioned counterfeits, but did not mention any counterfeit Apple stores this time. I'll admit, I am pleased to know that Romney must have read this blog. It is worth noting that he did not use the tech-related examples involving either Google or Microsoft that I thought could be useful for his uneven playing field claim. As I mentioned before, this may be because it would not be beneficial for such companies to be publicly mentioned by a leading political figure in the U.S. If they were, it could increase perceptions in China that they are arms of the U.S. government.

Instead, Romney used an example of counterfeit valves. I have no familiarity with the valve trade nor do I have any experience with fake valve stores in China. I will just say there is nothing in his account that strikes me as peculiar or especially unlikely. In fact, it reminded me of a wholesale counterfeit toy store I saw in Guangzhou which had several customers in the U.S. I can only assume Romney chose an example of valves instead of my example of cuddly stuffed toys because most of the toys in the store I highlighted were of animated characters from Japanese games, TV shows, and movies. If only the store had sold counterfeit stuffed Disney toys my post might have made it into a presidential debate. Oh well.

That's all for U.S. politics here for now. Like before, I doubt this particular comment in the debate will be what matters most to American voters as they consider their vote in the upcoming election. But I assume many Americans would agree that China selling counterfeit goods is not good for the U.S.

After all, someone could seriously hurt themselves using a counterfeit bayonet.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Harmonious Mobile Phone Stores in Changsha, China

To improve the experience of viewing two photos I will share in this post, I highly recommend playing a particular video for some background music to set the mood (video also here on YouTube):

If you are located in a country such as China, Iran, Syria, and Turkmenistan where YouTube is blocked to prevent you from hearing and seeing its nefarious content, then maybe you can play this Youku copy which may include an advertisement at the beginning (the video does not appear in some readers; not sure why, but it is also here on Youku):

If you are not able to play music at the moment, then I recommend simply singing the song "Ebony and Ivory" to yourself. Make sure to try your best to imitate Paul McCartney's and Stevie Wonder's different voices. And ignore any strange looks from people around you. This is really worth it.

Now that an appropriate theme is in the air, here are two mobile phone stores I saw today in downtown Changsha, Hunan province:

mobile phone store with prominent Apple and Android logs on its sign in Changsha, China

mobile phone store with prominent Apple and Android logs on its sign in Changsha, China

The stores complement the "fake" Android store and many "fake" Apple stores I have seen in China. Not surprisingly, both stores sold Apple and Android mobile phones. The second store also had an extensive selection of Nokia phones, including several which run the Windows Phone 7 operating system.

I will avoid delving into any possible deeper points so you can immerse yourself in this touching moment of blissful harmony. You may even want to play the video multiple times.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Mitt Romney and Counterfeit Apple Stores in China

The most recent U.S. presidential debate touched on some China-related issues, and I would like to comment on at least one of them.

No, this post will not be about the single question from a Shanghainese female I know:
Binders of women. What does 'binders' mean here?
Nor will it be about the many creative answers she received from friends.

Instead, I want to focus on this statement by Mitt Romney (copied from a debate transcript here):
We can compete with anyone in the world as long as the playing field is level. China's been cheating over the years. One by holding down the value of their currency. Number two, by stealing our intellectual property; our designs, our patents, our technology. There's even an Apple store in China that's a counterfeit Apple store, selling counterfeit goods. They hack into our computers. We will have to have people play on a fair basis, that's number one.
When listening to the debate live, Romney's reference of the "counterfeit Apple store, selling counterfeit goods" struck me as peculiar. I had assumed he was talking about the widely-reported "fake Apple Store" in Kunming. But that situation has long since been resolved, and I am not aware of any evidence that the Apple products it sold were counterfeits. However, it would be easy for me to believe there exists at least one store somewhere in China that could be reasonably called a "counterfeit" Apple store and that sells counterfeit goods of some sort (even if they aren't Apple products but instead are accessories designed by other companies). Since it is not clear which exact store Romney is referencing and he does not specify which type of goods are being counterfeited, I would not consider Romney's Apple store claim to be necessarily untrue. But whether he was referencing the store in Kunming or another store in China that has somehow caught his attention, I am not convinced the example was relevant in regards to arguing that the playing field is not level in China.

As I have detailed before, what counts as a "fake" Apple store can be fuzzy. And since so many potential offenders can still be found, at least at the moment Apple may only be taking action against those that go to extremes in imitating a real Apple Store. Furthermore there exist many Apple-authorized retail stores in China that are not Apple Stores, and it is not illegal for unauthorized stores to resell genuine Apple merchandise in China (see previous two links for more about these topics and examples of both fake and authorized Apple stores in China). Although I have seen mobile phones for sale in China that appear to inappropriately use Apple's trademarks (see here and here for two of my favorite examples), I have never seen such phones for sale in what I think could reasonably be called a "counterfeit Apple store". Also, I am not aware of any evidence that many fake Apple stores are selling counterfeit products that look and function like genuine Apple products. Instead, most reports and my own experience suggest that the Apple products being sold at such stores are purchased from authorized Apple stores. The Apple Store in Hong Kong has been a particularly popular source due to differences in prices and availability of products, and it plays a role in China's extensive grey market (for other examples of grey market activities see here and here). See here for some examples of stores in Guangzhou who earlier this year openly stated that their iPhones come from Hong Kong (also includes many examples of stores in Hunan province and elsewhere in Guangzhou province). See here for a more recent example in a Reuters report from nearby Shenzhen.

So, although Apple certainly faces challenges in China, I don't think the "counterfeit stores" are effective for the point Romney was making. After all, those stores mostly appear to be selling genuine products purchased from Apple.

If Romney had his heart set on using a tech example to make his case, I think there would have been more suitable options. For example, an online service that is blocked by China's Great Firewall, such as Google's YouTube, could touch on the issue of fairness while also touching on another issue that can stir up American voters. Mentioning YouTube's situation could show Romney is concerned about the restrictions on free speech in China. It is also an example of where China's censorship leads to a playing field that is not level. After all, YouTube cannot expect to make much profit in China if it is blocked. China's Great Firewall is even helping Chinese companies get business from American companies (see here for one example related to YouTube). And if you think services such as YouTube are only blocked due to reasons of censorship, read here about a Chinese woman in Guizhou who thinks there are also economic reasons for Google's "problems" in China. Regardless of the reasons for the blocking, though, I think it is fair to assume that most American voters could be easily convinced (if they aren't already) that YouTube is not on a level playing field with its potential competitors in China.

However, some would largue that all is indeed fair in regards to YouTube and that Google just has to observe China's censorship laws. Well... if Romney is sensitive to such concerns, then he can mention another well known tech company. Microsoft could make a kadzillion* dollars if all the copies of its software in China were used under proper licenses and not pirated versions. The problem is so extreme that Microsoft has reportedly even had to make a formal request in China that several state-owned companies stop using pirated copies of Microsoft software (see here). And although there may be disagreements over the severity of the problem (at least in public statements), the Chinese government has openly stated it wishes to reduce software piracy. So even they appear to acknowledge (at least in their words) that there is a problem. Again, I think American voters would readily view Microsoft's situation as not fair. The only caveat that now comes to mind is any Chinese software company probably also faces issues with piracy in China. So I suppose one could say there is a level playing field in that regards. However, the problem has a much larger financial effect on American companies such as Microsoft, and no Chinese company faces a similar problem succeeding in the US.

So why did Romney mention Apple's situation instead of Google's or Microsoft's? I could speculate about reasons that relate to either Romney's interests (for example, he might think Apple is "sexier" to voters or he might have a very specific definition of "level playing field") or Google's and Microsoft's interests (for example, they may not consider it to be beneficial to resolving their China-related problems for them be publicly stated by a prominent U.S. politician) but... I think it is best to just say I really don't know.

Finally, I don't expect this critique to pose a significant setback for Romney. Although I was puzzled by his statement about a counterfeit Apple store and wanted to comment on it, American voters will likely be far more concerned about many other statements made during the debate.

Even those about binders.

*"Kadzillion" equals whatever amount Microsoft would make under such conditions.

UPDATE: Paul Mozur in the China Real Time Report writes that Jessica Angelson, the blogger who brought attention to the fake Apple Store in Kunming, "didn’t feel her find was being used properly" by Romney. Again, even though it was my first interpretation as well, at the moment I don't think it can be said that Romney's words definitely refer to the Kunming store. But even if they don't, the example would not seem to be highly relevant to his point. Maybe Romney will shed more light on this issue.

Disclosure: I previously worked as a user experience researcher at Microsoft China. All of the information and claims about Microsoft in this post are based solely on public sources (except for my newly-created word "kadzillion") and in no way represent "inside knowledge" on my part. The rampant pirating of Microsoft's products in China is well-known and easy to see.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Android Shirts and Samsung Sales at a Store in Shenzhen

One day at Shenzhen's Dongmen shopping area two young men walked by with shirts I could not help noticing:

two employees wearing Android shirts in Shenzhen, China

Their blue shirts reminded me of the shirts worn by employees at Apple Stores, except the Apple logo was replaced with Android logos. I wondered if it was possible they worked at a store that might rival the Android store I found in nearby Zhuhai. After a brief chat, they happily pointed me in the right direction to find it.

Although the store proved to be ordinary (for China) in most respects and sold a variety of phones, I was mildly surprised to see that not everyone was wearing an Android shirt. Some of the employees wore similar shirts with an Apple logo similar (if not identical) to those seen at Apple Stores -- not the first time I have seen that in China.

I proceeded to have a in-depth conversation with one of the store managers who opened up on a variety of topics. One issue I found notable was that this manager thought some of the Nokia phones they were selling, such as the N9, ran Windows Phone 8. However, the N9 and the other Nokias available at the store ran other operating systems. I suspect his confusion is a sign of deeper issues, but I will refrain from saying more at this point.

I also found it interesting to hear his account of the store's sales and why he thought various models sold better than others. The biggest nugget in it all was that their best seller was Samsung smartphones running Android. Given what I had recently seen elsewhere in China and reports of Samsung's current strength in China, this did not come as a surprise.

So, the store seems to be another sign of good news for Google in China's dynamic mobile phone market. And like the Android store in Zhuhai, maybe the shirts can provide some inspiration as well. Though Google might prefer a different color.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Fate of the Android Store in Zhuhai, China

Update at end

More than four months have passed since I first posted about the "Android store" I stumbled upon after I took a random bus trip in Zhuhai, Guangdong province. One issue some people raised was whether its days were numbered due to possible actions from Google. But I assumed that the store, like many unauthorized Apple stores in China, would not face any immediate interference.

Last week I happened to be in Zhuhai, so I returned to its Nanping district to checkup on the now semi-famous store. At first glance, it did not appear much had changed:

Android store in Zhuhai, China
Still there

The inside of the store was also mostly the same as before. One difference was that there were no Apple computers for sale -- only iPads and iPhones were available (see here for earlier photos from inside the store). Another difference also caught my eye. The staff were wearing store shirts:

Employee wearing green store shirt with Android and Apple logos.
She was happy to have her photograph taken.

Back of store shirt.
Sorry, the shirts are not available for purchase.

The Android robot is displayed on the front of the shirt, Apple's logo is on the right sleeve, and Android, Windows Phone, Symbian, and iOS are on the back of the shirt. Given the store's sign, it seems fitting that Android is the most prominently featured brand, even in the shirt's color. It is worth nothing that what appears to be the name of the store on the shirt is the same as the Chinese words which appear underneath the Android logos on the store's main sign.

Although finding that the store still existed did not surprise me, there was something else I was less sure about. Would the store inspire others?

I found the answer at another store just down the street. Here it is as I saw it several months ago:

store with prominent signs for China Unicom and Nokia
One of the many stores in the area with a Nokia sign

But the store has since undergone a bit of a makeover:

Store with China Unicom and Android signs plus some pillars with Apple logos

The large Nokia sign on the outside of the store has been replaced with the Android robot and what is presumably the store's Chinese name (which is similar to the other store's Chinese name and also does not include the Chinese word for "android"). The Nokia sign on the inside of the store has been replaced with a Samsung sign. Another outside face of the store is now partly in the Apple style, but it curiously includes the Android logos on the middle column. However, this mix of Apple and Android may not be so surprising since this same store previously had an ad for the iPhone that included a singing Android robot.

I will refrain from any deep commentary. I simply wanted to share that not only does the original Android store remain, but it appears to have an imitator.

And now I wonder if more will soon appear.

UPDATE: A little over a year later, much had changed. See "The Fate of the Android Store in Zhuhai, China: Part II" for more.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Tibetan Monks, iPhones, and Luxury in China

Yesterday, I visited this mobile phone store in Xining, Qinghai province:

mobile phone store in Xining, Qinghai, China

It included a variety of mobile phone brands commonly seen in China, such as Nokia, Oppo, K-Touch, and Apple. It also included some lesser-known brands, some with curious names such as Samzong. The most remarkable experience I had in the store, though, was meeting these three Tibetan Buddhist monks:

three Tibetan monks, one holding an iPhone, in Xining, Qinghai, China

In the photo one of the monks can be seen holding an iPhone. In fact, all three had iPhones. To be clear, many Chinese could not afford an iPhone. If monks with iPhones come as a surprise, it is worth noting that some of the store's employees appeared to be surprised as well. The monks were in the store so they could upload new apps to their phones. Behind the monks is a computer where for 60 yuan (about U.S. $10) one can purchase a set of apps for either Apple or Android mobile phones.

In various regions of China I have often seen monks using mobile phones. For example, four years ago in Yangzhou, Jiangsu province, I had an excellent vegetarian dinner with this (non-Tibetan) Buddhist monk:

Buddhist monk talking on a mobile phone in Yangzhou, China

However his mobile was not an iPhone, and not I do not know for sure whether iPhone usage amongst monks is now widespread (I doubt it).

Although they may not be representative of other Tibetan monks, the three men I met in Xining highlight that more and more people in China have an iPhone. This is obviously a good sign for Apple. But some consumers in China (and elsewhere) are at least partly motivated to buy an iPhone due to a desire for "luxury" items that are fashionable. It will be interesting to see whether the iPhone's more widespread adoption impacts their choices.

Finally, the monks' iPhones were not the only thing that caught my eye:

Tibetan monk holding a DVD of the movie Colombiana in Xining, Qinghai, China
His newly purchased DVD of Colombiana is probably pirated.

iPhones and DVDs of Western movies -- both part of these modern Tibetan monks' lives in Qinghai, China.