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iPhone image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The verdict is still out on Apple CEO Tim Cook’s statement, made during an interview with Xinhua in Beijing, that he expects China to overtake the US and be Apple’s largest market.

Reacting to the announcement, netizens across China voiced dissenting opinions via microblogging and news sites, and other forums.

Some welcomed the development, expressing admiration for both Cook and Apple devices. Most netizens, however, discredited Cook’s ambitious plans saying the China focus comes too late. Some users pointed out that mobile phones from domestic makers are way ahead of the iPhone 5, while others complained about the limitations of the “closed” iOS.

China is currently Apple’s second-largest market after the US.

Cook’s China trip last week is his second in less than a year as CEO. The visit included meetings with government officials, business partners, and Apple employees and customers.

The visit comes at a time when Samsung and Android devices in general are making headway against Apple gadgets in China, the world’s number 1 mobile phone market.

Data from the third quarter of 2012 shows Apple slid to sixth place in China, its largest market after the US. Samsung kept the top slot, according to research firm IDC, which estimated the China smartphone market at a record of more than 60 million in July to September.

Cook also told members of the local media that China’s approval process takes longer than others, resulting in late product launches. “We’ve been trying to coordinate with the approval process and tried to shorten the gap between the launch date in China with other countries as much as possible, which, has also become one of our primary task today.”

Here is a selection of comments by netizens on Weibo (China’s equivalent of Twitter) and SinaTech (a leading tech website in China). Comments were posted in Mandarin and have been translated into English.

Comments from Weibo:Zjtop:

We should forecast various case scenarios in advance, and adjust timely according to market changes. Even if Apple is no longer a myth, it will still be powerful in the next ten years.

金莲子-:

Many domestic mobile phone brands have exceeded Apple and Samsung. Try buying one and you will know. Brands like Gionee, Xiaomi, Lenovo, BBK, etc.

撼联网:

Apple will definitely launch low-end version (iPhone) this year. I am guessing.

LayLiu:

1. There are no obvious innovations in Apple products today. 2. Chinese silly amount of money. 3. China can never be the first for Apple products. 4. Sister-in-law (Cook mentioned in the interview that his younger brother’s wife is Chinese) means nothing. iPhone price in China is the most expensive in the world. One word, nonsense.

李秀冰A:

Development at Apple has come to a standstill. Was there any innovation from iPhone 4 to iPhone 5? Just a little longer, a little lighter, slightly better sound quality. Anything else special?

Vlapis:

In the hands of Jobs, Apple was an innovation dream factory, while in Cook’s, Apple became a factory without the “innovation” and “dream.” The most notable case is the response to Obama’s call for production to return to the US. Although it could not create a lot of jobs, it is a mistake in mindset and the strategy. This time to choose mainland China as a battlefield is nothing but most clumsy and incompetent move. Apple will enter price war in 3 to 5 years.

九灵湾:

An iPhone for US$99? No way. Even it is possible, China’s side would stop it, because it would kill local brands.

许杭旭:

Although I use an iPhone, I am not optimistic about Apple, because Apple’s iOS is not compatible with others. It is not open to others and costs for upgrading. People would dump it if it continues to be conservative and complacent. My next smartphone will never be an Apple. The openness of an enterprise would eventually reflect its value, the more open the higher value.

梦V薇:

Apple set the world on fire, but quality is dropping. The prices of iPhone 4 and 4S are increasing, however iPhone 5 quality is declining. If this does not change, the brand will fail.

成都商报创富:

The difference between Cook and Jobs is gradually emerging.

盛水的瓶子-文学:

Cook’s understanding of the China market is something that Jobs couldn’t figure out.

BG1DRZ:

I support it. Although I don’t like Apple (iOS) being so closed, its products still boast the best user experience.

@老凉:

Mr. Cook is really worried to see the China market so prosperous and China brands rising one after the other. But what can you do if your products are not powerful enough?

Comments from Sina Tech:

手机用户[北京海淀]:

iPhone is a revolutionary product. I respect these creative products.

明月山人[河南郑州]:

Apple used to be arrogant toward China.

Aftershock:

Chinese consumers bought a lot of Apple products at the time when Jobs marginalized China market. Now with the bottleneck in the US and Europe, Cook remembers China. The Apple myth, however, is over and the Chinese may no longer be interested.

好运-2013:

Apple’s sales profit is highest in China. It surely hopes mainland China will be the market for its new devices.

清清的心愿:

To value its supply chain, one must value mainland China market.

万劲松要改变:

A spent force. Apple is only right in making China its biggest market.

陈献青:

Rather than putting the US, Europe and other markets down for the second batch of product launches, Apple should make sure it can cover worldwide demand for its products in one go.

Cassen斯基 H:

I don’t want China to be the first to have Apple product. What Apple should do is make its iOS more localized.

小毛豆X:

1. Apple’s latest products have no big breakthrough, except for becoming “bigger”; 2. China has a big population and every product can find a market there; 3. Mainland China is already ahead of other markets in getting Apple products. iPhone 5 (referring to look-alikes) has been available on the streets even before the iPhone 4S was released 4. Being interested in China is very normal.