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Apple plans two more R&D centers in China as its challenges in the country continue

Apple has announced plans to set up two new research and development centers in China amid continued challenges to the iPhone maker in the world's second-largest economy.

The U.S. technology titan said Friday that the hubs would be in Shanghai and Suzhou. This follows previous plans to open R&D centers in Beijing and Shenzhen.

Apple has committed to invest more than 3.5 billion yuan ($507.1 million) in research in China, the company said.

Apple CEO Tim Cook
Justin Sullivan | Getty Images
Apple CEO Tim Cook

All four centers are set to open later this year, according to a statement on Apple's China website. The hope is that the company will be able to attract graduates and talent from local universities.

The announcement comes as Apple chief executive Tim Cook plans to attend a high-profile business conference in China over the weekend and as the U.S. tech giant struggles in China. Greater China revenues fell 12 percent year over year in the quarter ended December 31 after following several quarters of declines, the company has reported. The iPhone faces stiff competition from local players such as Oppo and Vivo which are selling high-quality handsets at lower prices than Apple's flagship device.

Committing money to China could give Apple some favor with the government but also helps it access the local knowledge and talent that's required to compete in the country. Investors are looking forward to the upcoming 10th anniversary edition iPhone to boost sales at the company following its first annual revenue decline since 2001 in its last fiscal year.