Price tags for iPhones in China are being trimmed for the second time this year… and it’s only March. The cuts are coming after complaints from Chinese consumers that the prices of iPhones are getting “more and more presumptuous” -- but it looks like they're still not cheap enough for some.  

Several ecommerce stores have started price promotions, with the biggest discount coming from JD: The price of the iPhone XS Max with 256GB of storage dropped US$253 compared with Apple's official website. Its rival, Alibaba-owned Tmall, quickly announced on Tuesday that it plans to cut the prices of iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max by up to US$298 compared to Apple’s website.

(Abacus is a unit of the South China Morning Post, which is owned by Alibaba, Tmall’s operator)

Judging by social media reactions, Chinese buyers seem unconvinced.

“With this price, I can buy three Xiaomi Mi Mix 3. It's too expensive,” said one comment. Others were even more brutal, saying that paying more than 5000 yuan for an iPhone XS is an IQ tax -- meaning they are paying taxes on stupidity.

The iPhone XS Max with 512 GB of storage costs a whopping US$1950 in China. (Picture: REUTERS/Edgar Su)

Many consumers noted that Apple is still not close to launching a 5G phone, so they would rather wait. 5G networks have been on trial in China, with telecom operators saying they plan to deploy 5G networks next year.

And then there were those who cheered for buying Huawei instead of Apple – a theme that has been repeated since the start of the US-China trade tensions and the arrest of Huawei’s CFO.

Over the years, the price of the iPhone has risen steadily both in China and the US – but China’s prices were always higher. When Apple launched the XS Max 512GB version of the iPhone last September, the price was an astonishing US$1950 (12,799 yuan) in China, around US$300 more than the US. Aside from the price, Apple fans complained that the XS brought nothing new compared to previous iterations.

Apple launched a big promotion for its 8/8P and XR in February after a sales slump. In a first, Apple also slashed its official flagship store prices -- albeit through coupons. Some local reports said that sales were getting better, but judging by the latest price cuts, the boost wasn't enough.

Some Chinese buyers say they are hoping for a third price cut, and there's a good reason for that. 

During 2018, Apple saw its shipments in China decline for the third year in a row. It’s currently the fifth most popular smartphone brand in China, trailing front-runner Huawei, according to IDC

But both Huawei and Apple, as well as other brands, are facing a tough 2019: Research firm Canalys predicted that sales of smartphones will continue to decline in China as in the rest of the world. Chinese smartphone makers have been rushing to launch new innovative designs and push out 5G phones to draw users. As Canalys' Mo Jia notes, Apple might have to find a way to revive its image to attract high-end consumers.