Apple CEO Tim Cook unexpectedly visited China, emphasizing the importance of the market for the iPhone giant at a time when it faces growing challenges.

Gamers gathered at an Apple store in Chengdu, southwest China, to play "Honor of Kings," a game developed by TiMi Studio, a subsidiary of the Chinese tech giant Tencent.

"The action-packed Honor of Kings began here in Chengdu, and now it's a global phenomenon on the App Store," Cook said in a post on the Chinese social network Weibo.

Cook also posted a video of himself cheering on players at the tournament. Honor of Kings is one of the largest mobile games in China and a significant source of revenue for the Apple App Store in the country.

The visit of Apple's CEO to the company's third-largest market comes just under a month after the iPhone 15, the company's flagship smartphone, was released and received a seemingly lukewarm reception. Additionally, the Chinese tech giant Huawei is attempting to re-enter the mobile communications market.

Counterpoint Research reported on Tuesday that iPhone 15 series sales in China during the first 17 days of availability dropped by 4.5% compared to the iPhone 14.

This occurred after Huawei quietly launched a smartphone with high-quality semiconductors and 5G connectivity last month, despite U.S. sanctions aimed at preventing it.


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Once, Huawei was the largest smartphone manufacturer in China and a major competitor to Apple before U.S. sanctions deprived it of key technologies necessary for competition, causing it to fall to sixth place.

However, just recently, on Monday, Jefferies analysts published a report stating that Huawei has become the number one smartphone manufacturer in China, surpassing Apple.

"Indeed, it's a challenging start for Apple, and it's a combination of factors," said Ethan Qi, Deputy Director of Counterpoint Research, in an email to CNBC.

Qi explained that Apple's challenges include poor consumer sentiment, lower performance of the iPhone 15 compared to the iPhone 14, and increased competition in the high-end smartphone market.

"All of these factors are working together to diminish the shine of the iPhone 15 in the first few weeks of its sales," Qi said.