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Search trends in China show interest in iPhone down nearly 50%

Key Points
  • The number of searches for the iPhone on Chinese search engine Baidu cratered by 48 percent in February after dropping 50 percent in January, according to Longbow Research.
  • It was the fifth consecutive month of declines, Longbow says.
  • The lackluster search trends came even after Chinese retailers slashed iPhone prices.
  • Baidu iPhone search trends are indicative of iPhone demand, according to Longbow. It says they've had a 74 percent correlation to changes in Apple's year-over-year sales in China during the past four years
Customers look at products in an Apple store in Beijing on December 11, 2018.
Greg Baker | AFP | Getty Images

Chinese interest in Apple's iPhone seems to be waning as fewer consumers search for the smart phone online, according to Longbow Research.

The number of iPhone searches on Chinese search engine Baidu plummeted 48 percent in February, slightly less than the 50 percent plunge in January, Longbow said. It was the fifth consecutive month of decline. The lackluster search trends came even after Chinese retailers slashed iPhone prices.

"Multiple iPhone price cuts did not stop China iPhone search trends from weakening further while February supplier sales were abysmal," Longbow analyst Shawn Harrison said in a note Tuesday.

Baidu iPhone search trends are indicative of iPhone demand, according to the firm. It said they have a 74 percent correlation to changes in Apple's year-over-year sales in China during the past four years. The searches also have an 82 percent correlation to iPhone shipments into China, Longbow said.

Apple's iPhone sales in China decreased 5 percent year over year in February and more than 30 percent from January, Longbow said.

The firm kept its neutral rating for Apple and expects earnings of $11 per share in fiscal year of 2019.

"We remain neutral since without iPhone demand acceleration on the horizon, we currently do not see any catalysts near term to drive significant EPS upside," Harrison said.

Apple on Monday announced an event for March 25 where streaming TV and subscription news services are expected. Shares of the iPhone maker have gained more than 13 percent in 2019.