updated 09:47 pm EST, Tue December 24, 2013
Apple Japan expected to launch 'Lucky Bag' sale starting January 2
Apple may be planning to celebrate the Japanese New Year with offerings of fukubukoro, or "lucky bags" beginning at 8AM local time on Thursday, January 2, two hours earlier than the usual opening time, according to an item on Japanese Mac fan site Otakara. Along with most other retailers, Japan's Apple Stores will offer a "lucky bag" at a present price that contains mystery items worth more than the asking price. In some cases, buyers have received a MacBook Air or an iPad.
Last year, buyers lined up outside Apple Stores in Japan hours ahead of the openings to secure one of the few "lucky bags" allocated to each store. The fukubukoro custom began nearly a century ago in Tokyo's famous Ginza shopping district, reports AppleInsider, and quickly spread widely in Japan and is even sometimes seen in the US and other countries.
Study: Chinese smartphone market may be cooling
The rate of growth in China's smartphone market saw an unusual decline in the third calendar quarter of 2013, suggesting that the market could be approaching saturation, at least temporarily. The figures could also suggest that news of an impending (and now completed) deal between China Mobile and Apple caused buyers to resist upgrading until the new iPhones and China's LTE-compatible network were finally available. If the latter is the case, growth could rebound in the fourth quarter.
Under normal conditions, 3G smartphone users were growing as a group at a rate of about 18 million users per month, but averaged about 13 million new users per month in the third quarter, according to analyst Jun Zhang (who, it should be noted, had previously said Apple wouldn't reach an agreement with China Mobile until late next year). Competition from local manufacturers may also be playing a role in the drop, Jun said, noting that Chinese maker Xiaomi outsold the iPhone in October, pushing Apple down to the third most-popular position. Another factor is said to be weaker-than-expected sales of the iPhone 5c in China, where smartphone buyers appear to strongly prefer the gold iPhone 5s.
Now that the deal with China Mobile is complete, analysts believe Apple could sell around 17 million additional handsets over and above the number they had expected for China through the country's other two carriers, China Unicom and China Telecom. The figure represents about 10 percent of China Mobile's 170 million existing 3G customers. Overall, China Mobile has some 760 million subscribers, but most are on feature phones. Assuming positive economic trends continue, millions more Chinese may emerge into the growing middle class economic strata, which would be good news for consumer electronics makers like Samsung and Apple.