TikTok, WeChat bans could make Apple iPhone shipments drop up to 30%, analyst says

You may not use the popular Chinese chat or social networking apps, billions of others do. And they wouldn't be happy if it disappeared.

Ian Sherr Contributor and Former Editor at Large / News
Ian Sherr (he/him/his) grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, so he's always had a connection to the tech world. As an editor at large at CNET, he wrote about Apple, Microsoft, VR, video games and internet troubles. Aside from writing, he tinkers with tech at home, is a longtime fencer -- the kind with swords -- and began woodworking during the pandemic.
Ian Sherr
2 min read

President Donald Trump has signed two executive orders that could ban TikTok and WeChat by next month. 

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With all the drama over President Donald Trump's threats to ban the international Chinese social networking sensation TikTok, tech watchers in the US haven't spent as much time considering what banning TenCent's WeChat might lead to as well. A well-connected Apple analyst crunched the numbers and estimates iPhone sales could drop as much as 30% worldwide if a ban goes into effect on WeChat alone, suggesting it could drop even more in the wake of a TikTok ban too. Other Apple products could see drops of up to 25%, the analyst added.

In a note to investors published by AppleInsider and MacRumors, Ming-Chi Kuo wrote: "Since WeChat is very critical to Chinese users, integrating communications, payments, e-commerce, social software, news reading, and productivity functions, we believe that the move will tank iPhone shipments in the Chinese market." 

Kuo based his estimates on a belief that if the WeChat ban goes through, it'd likely be forced out of Apple's App Store worldwide. Apple didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany didn't respond to a request for additional details about whether Trump will block WeChat or TikTok from being distributed on the App Store. 

"The administration is committed to protecting the American people from all cyberthreats, and these apps collect significant amounts of private data on users, and such data can be accessed and used by the People's Republic of China," she said during a press briefing Thursday. "TikTok has a documented history of censoring free speech to conform to Chinese Communist Party propaganda, and we take the data of Americans very seriously."

The estimate marks the latest way analysts are attempting to understand what Trump's government bans on the two Chinese apps from our smartphones would mean for companies like Apple. Trump is frequently criticized for making policy decisions, such as imposing tariffs on imports, that raise prices on American industry and consumers.

As a result of Trump's threats, companies are scrambling to avoid the ban. Microsoft has expressed interest in acquiring part or all of TikTok, for example. The social network, which counts more than a billion downloads worldwide and 100 million users in the US, said it also plans to sue in an attempt to stop the ban.

Kuo said he expects Apple would comply with a ban if it goes through. The company did remove WeChat from its App Store in India, when the government there instituted a ban of its own in June.

If the bans take effect, Kuo said a best-case scenario is that Apple would only be forced to remove the Chinese apps from its US App Store. In that case, iPhone sales would decline by as much as 6%, and other Apple devices would likely fall less than 3%.

"Theoretically, the US government will not hurt Apple," Kuo wrote. "However, the US presidential election is approaching, and we think Trump may adopt more aggressive strategies for the election, including asking Apple to remove WeChat from worldwide App Stores."