SINGAPORE - Apple's move to launch a limited-edition Chinese New Year (CNY) smartwatch series is a sign of the growing importance of the Chinese market to the tech giant, analysts said.
"China is the world's largest smartphone market, and with growing competition from home-grown brands like Huawei and Xiaomi, it is no surprise that Apple is tailoring its products and services to meet Chinese demand," said Mr Daniel Jung, technology lawyer at tech law firm Olswang Asia.
Unveiled today, the CNY Apple Watch Sport models, available in 38mm and 42mm, feature the gold aluminium and silver aluminium cases and are paired with a red Sport Band. Current Apple Watch Sport models do not have a red Sport Band pairing as an option.
The CNY gold Apple Watch version's red band will come with a matching gold aluminium pin instead of the regular silver pin. This full gold-red colour combination symbolises good fortune in the Chinese tradition, and will probably be the more popular watch of the two.
The limited-edition watch is available only in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Taiwan and China and will go on sale from Jan 15 to Feb 22 on its online store and selected Apple authorised resellers here.
In the past, the online Apple Store only featured red or gold Apple products and accessories for CNY.
"Of course, this is not just about China - Apple wants to increase its market share across the Asia-Pacific region, and CNY is widely celebrated across Asia," Mr Jung said.
Apple does not disclose sales figures for its smartwatch. But according to a report by research firm RedTech Advisors/TalkingData in September 2015, over 1 million of Apple's smartwatches have been sold in China. This represented around 22 per cent of the estimated global sales of Apple Watch.
Research firm IDC estimated that Apple Watch has a 61.3 per cent market share of the smartwatch segment in 2015.
In addition to the new CNY Apple Watch models, Apple subsidiary audio brand Beats has created a special edition of its Solo2 Wireless Headphones to celebrate the year of the monkey.
This special pair of headphones features design inspired by the legend of the Three Wise Monkeys. However, it retails only in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau and China.
China is now the second biggest market after US for Apple, overtaking Europe in the September last year. In Apple's third quarter 2015 earnings, the company reported US$13.2 billion (S$18.9 billion) in revenue from greater China, which includes China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. This represents an 112 per cent in increase from the same period of time in 2014.
Just last month, Apple and China UnionPay announced a partnership to bring Apple Pay, Apple's mobile payment platform, to China. China UnionPay cardholders will be able to easily add their bank cards to Apple Pay on their iPhones and Apple Watches.