Tim Cook believes China will be Apple’s biggest market – and it’s not hard to see why


One of the most remarkable numbers revealed yesterday by Apple was that revenue in Greater China – the term used to describe mainland China plus Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan – more than doubled in the past year. Year-on-year revenue in the region more than doubled, compared to Apple’s already impressive worldwide growth of 33% … 

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I’m a words kind of guy; numbers don’t always grab me in the same way. But visuals, like that created by Six Colors, makes the true scale of this number very easy to grasp. While Apple’s revenue continues to grow in both Europe and the Americas, that growth is completely dwarfed by China.


Of course, it’s not just about growth – you also need to look at the absolute numbers. But there too the story is quite remarkable: Greater China is now a bigger market for Apple than the whole of Europe, at $13.2B versus $10.3B.

The Americas so far remain significantly larger at $20.2B. But the company believes there is much more to come in China, as Tim Cook made clear during the earnings call.

I think China is a fantastic geography with an incredible, unprecedented level of opportunity.

Cook has in the past predicted that China would become a larger market for Apple than the Americas, and it’s not hard to see why. Apple achieved its growth to date at a time when the Chinese economy has been performing poorly, and the percentage of the population with access to LTE networks – one of the biggest drivers of premium smartphone demand – is just 12%. Given a better economy and better infrastructure, the demand for the iPhone will clearly increase.

But the bigger factor is that, for all China’s success as a major economic power, it is still in some ways an emerging economy. Cook said (per VentureBeat) that a recent McKinsey study showed just how much more there was yet to come.

The rise of the middle class [in China] is continuing and it is transforming China. I saw a recent study from McKenzie that’s projecting the upper middle class to grow from 14 percent to 54 percent of households over the ten year period from 2012 to 2022. So we’re within that period at this moment.

The upper middle class is the demographic currently buying Apple products. If that demographic expands in line with predictions – or gets anywhere close to it – you see can why Cook is so confident that China will at some stage overtake the Americas. It’s already 65% of the way there, and it’s early days yet.

The flip side is that the Chinese Government could turn on Apple as it has other Western Companies, at any point. This is one reason the stock market isn’t as excited about Apple’s earnings as you’d think.

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  1. James Clatworthy - 8 years ago

    This is absolutely why they went for the 6nplus and the gold colours. China loves that kind of stuff. Whenever I’ve seen or read reviews etc asking ‘who’s this for?’ or ‘what’s it for?’ (namely the 2015 macbook and the Watch Edition) I screamed CHINA at the screen. They have the money and the type of style that wants Apple to remember its premium DNA. Fair play Tim, you have clearly nailed it!

  2. John Evos - 8 years ago

    Apple Q&A session timeline info for investors to busy to listen to the whole CC—-
    The entire CC lasted from 2:00-3:00 pm 07/21/2015- Listen to the last 30 minutes to get the “gravitas” of what Tim Cook was saying about important issues—–!!!!!!!!!
    :33:24- Munster/TC Apple Watch numbers extrapolation clarifications
    :44:50- TC many, many years left in the iPhone cycle!!!
    :48:56- TC excellent commentary on China sales, store openings, 4g build out, middle class expansion, and China stock market’s LIMITED effects
    :53:30- Luca commentary on the FX issues affecting Apple earnings bottom line like all other international companies affected by the strong dollar……

  3. charismatron - 8 years ago

    Anyone that’s paying attention has known China would be huge for Apple. What’s going to take some getting used to is the future of Apple’s product design will by necessity be catering to its largest market.

    Can a pink Macbook Pro be far off? :)


Avatar for Ben Lovejoy Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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