Samsung Electronics Co. and Huawei Technologies Co. watched as Apple Inc. first priced a mass market smartphone at more than 1,000 dollars -- and now have upped the ante with new models at almost double that cost.
Apple kicked off the trend in 2017 with the iPhone X. Its latest premium iPhones, the XS and XS Max, cost as much as 1,450 dollars. This past week, Samsung and Huawei doubled the bet, pricing their folding phones at 1,980 dollars and about 2,600 dollars , respectively. That makes the folding devices the most expensive phones to date, excluding low-volume, jewelry-like phones from companies like Vertu that can top 10,000 dollars.
Apple’s rivals have co-opted the company’s strategy of trying to squeeze more cash out of stagnating unit sales, pushing the price of some phones well above what many people would pay for a laptop computer. The move seems to have hurt Apple, which reported that iPhone revenue declined 15 percent in the fiscal first-quarter from a year earlier.
Excluding the foldable devices, the average selling price of smartphones increased to $575 in the fourth quarter of 2018 from $542 a year earlier, according to IDC.
Apple’s pricing strategy initially seemed to pay off. After launching the X, the company reported record iPhone sales in the fiscal first quarter of 2018. But sales stalled during the year, especially in China where competitors introduced phones with similar technology at sometimes a third or half the price.
The sluggish sales spurred a “'ire drill' at Apple, with the iPhone maker introducing a variety of promotions to offset the high prices.
Its Chief Operating Officer , Mr. Jeff Williams, said Apple is 'very aware' of concern over its product pricing.
'We do not want to be an elitist company,' he said earlier this month in an appearance at Elon University. 'We want to be an egalitarian company, and we’ve got a lot of work going on in developing markets.'