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Tax rebate expected to prop up phones

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The Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max being unveiled during a virtual product launch on Tuesday. The event was streamed from Tiskilwa, Illinois in the US. Bloomberg The Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max being unveiled during a virtual product launch on Tuesday. The event was streamed from Tiskilwa, Illinois in the US. Bloomberg

The new 5G-compatible iPhone 12 line could help push up demand in the smartphone market, with the government’s tax rebate “Shop and Payback” scheme anticipated to be a key driver for the segment in the fourth quarter, according to tech pundits.

Apple unveiled its iPhone 12 range at a virtual event on Tuesday. They consist of the iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max, with starting prices of US$699, $799, $999 and $1099, respectively.

The US tech giant has yet to announce when the iPhone 12 line will be made available in Thailand or the pricing in baht.

Narathip Wirunechatapant, chief executive of Jaymart Mobile, the handset distributor arm of SET-listed Jay Mart, said the new iPhone 12 line could push up demand among iPhone users in Thailand as they are 5G-compatible.

The iPhone 12 mini, he said, could help Apple reach out to mass users who are interested in mid-range handsets, similar to the iPhone SE.

“The price of iPhone 12 is quite close to iPhone 11, which received positive feedback from users, so we expect iPhone 12 to also receive positive feedback,” said Mr Narathip.

Normally when Apple launches a new iPhone series, high-end iPhone Pro versions receive a warm welcome first while lower-end models see better response in the second wave, he said.

Lacklustre economic sentiment and high household debt still weigh on the market, said Mr Narathip.

In September, the local smartphone market shrank 30% from the same month a year earlier.

“September saw the lowest sales of the year,” he said.

Consumers are unwilling to upgrade handsets or pay more for 5G models, though the price gap between 4G and 5G handsets is only 3,000 baht, said Mr Narathip.

“Next year more 5G-enabled handsets will be available and the price gap between 4G and 5G handsets will be narrower, which could attract more users,” Mr Narathip said.

He has high hopes the Shop and Payback scheme will encourage people to buy smartphones.

On Monday the cabinet approved the tax rebate programme, allowing people to deduct up to 30,000 baht spent on certain goods and services, as part of efforts to shore up the sagging economy.

Buyers may decide to buy devices in the final quarter to be eligible for the scheme instead of the first quarter next year, said Mr Narathip.

Teerit Paowan, an analyst at tech research firm IDC Thailand, said the iPhone 12 is expected to accelerate demand for smartphones in the last quarter. Users typically upgrade their phones every two years, but those who have an iPhone X or iPhone 8 Plus may opt for an iPhone 12, he said.

Under the ongoing economic challenges, smartphone makers are likely to set more attractive prices for their handsets to speed up buyers’ decision-making.

Chinese smartphone makers have recently rolled out 5G-enabled handsets priced 10,000-15,000 baht, said Mr Teerit.

Previously Chinese 5G-compatible devices were set at more than 20,000 baht.