Apple’s new iPhone models this year may have an improved selfie camera, a better Taptic Engine and an upgraded chipset. But none of these features seem to be impressive enough for China’s smartphone users, who are taking their distaste to social media.

Chinese commenters are focused on one feature in particular. The upcoming models will ship with three rear cameras arranged in a square, according to 9to5Mac. Sources who spoke to the site say it will look largely similar to dummy units that have been making the rounds online.

Prototypes based on rumors about the upcoming iPhones that Apple is set to unveil this fall. (Picture: Marques Brownlee via YouTube)

Reactions from Chinese netizens are overwhelmingly negative. An informal poll conducted by Sina’s tech blog on Weibo shows over 90% of more than 750,000 respondents say the iPhone 11 doesn’t look good.

“Each upgrade gets uglier,” said one of the top comments that’s been liked more than 3,500 times. “What’s wrong with Apple?”

“This looks really ugly,” said another popular comment. “I’m an Apple fan, but forget about this yuba.”

In China, “yuba” refers to a type of bathroom heat lamp with bulbs placed in a square container. The term is commonly used by creative netizens to describe the square rear-camera arrangement on smartphones, first popularized last year by Huawei’s Mate 20 series.

Ironically, some people say they would rather buy a Huawei handset than the upcoming iPhone. One reason is that reports suggest Apple won’t introduce 5G support to its devices until next year at the earliest. Huawei, on the other hand, is expected to start selling its first 5G phone in China next month.

“Huawei’s 5G phone is going to trash [the new iPhone] in seconds,” wrote one Weibo commenter.

Comments like this reflect the shifting tastes of Chinese smartphone users.

More iPhone users in China have been switching to Android handsets compared with a year ago, according to new data from QuestMobile. Among these converts, Huawei’s P30 and P30 Pro were the most popular models in June, chosen by more than a third of those who ditched the iPhone X.

China has always been the one place where people are more likely to freely switch between iOS and Android, thanks in part to the prevalence of WeChat. While users elsewhere are more likely to stick to a platform for its exclusive apps and services, WeChat wraps together an enormous range of features that are identical whether you’re on iOS or Android.

Whereas popular features like iMessage and Apple Pay might lock someone into Apple’s iOS ecosystem elsewhere, WeChat is the messenger of choice in China, and WeChat Pay is one of the country’s top two mobile payment platforms.

But there are more reasons why Huawei, in particular, is gaining from Apple’s loss.

The home market has become exceptionally important for the Chinese giant after it was placed on a US blacklist in May. Even though President Donald Trump has softened his stance recently, the restriction is officially still in place. That means Huawei may no longer be able to buy software and tech components from American companies starting from mid-August.

Without the promise of Google services on its future handset, Huawei has taken a hit in overseas markets like Europe. Chinese consumers, on the other hand, don’t care about Google apps, which aren’t shipped on smartphones in China, anway. That’s because most of the company’s products are banned in the country.

Meanwhile, Apple has been struggling to convince Chinese shoppers to buy its increasingly expensive phones. In 2018, iPhone shipments in China dropped 12% from the year before, according to IDC.

To boost demand, the Californian giant slashed iPhone prices in China at least twice this year. It also included a number of China-friendly features in its latest iOS update, such as contact labels specific to Chinese culture.

In the end, though, how the next iPhone will fare in China may all come down to one factor.

“Doesn’t whether it looks good or not depend on the price?” one Weibo user quipped.