In the long term, the shift to 3G and 4G networks in China could also lead to more sales, if carriers try to push more long-term contracts with subsidized handsets, similar to the way the U.S. market works.
"There's not that much 3G penetration yet," Marshall said. "I think over time this could change, as the carriers realize the value of having a longer-term subscriber, higher-value subscribers consuming more data, et cetera."
In the meantime, don't expect Apple to chase after market share with cheaper devices that diverge from its existing product line. That's never been the company's philosophy, even in emerging markets. "I don't see them changing this strategy just for the Chinese market, and we've seen that with the iPhone 5c," de Renesse said.
Apple likely enjoys its position in China as a respected, international brand, and the price premium it commands. So despite the differences between China and the United States, the strategy isn't all that different: Make products for which people are willing to pay, even if the pricing is higher than the competition's.
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