In a telling sign of the times, Apple announced Wednesday that China will be among the first wave of markets to get its new iPhone 6s smartphones on September 25.

That’s a change from last year — the initial iPhone 6 launch on September 19, 2014 included Hong Kong, but not mainland China. Chinese consumers were forced to wait until October 17 to get their hands on the new phones.

Apple also said that transit information in its Maps app will be available in more than 300 cities in China, including Beijing, Chengdu, and Shanghai.

Meanwhile, the country’s three major carriers — China Mobile, China Telecom, and China Unicom — are expected to continue to support iPhones (now including the 6s) on their 4G/LTE networks.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook shares data on China's smartphone growth at the apple event in San Fransisco Wednesday

Above: Apple chief executive Tim Cook shares data on China’s smartphone growth at the Apple Event in San Francisco, Wednesday

In July, China’s 4G users passed 250 million (more than double the number of U.S. subscribers) on a total mobile user base of nearly 1.3 billion. Apple chief executive Tim Cook said that China saw 75 percent year-on-year smartphone growth, compared with -4 percent for the rest of the industry.

Other first-wave launch markets for the iPhone 6s in Asia include Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore (unchanged from last year). Notably, India — expected to be the second-largest smartphone market behind China by 2017 — is still missing from the line-up.

Apple also offered a nod to China during the iPhone keynote when it included the country’s most popular mobile messaging app, WeChat, in a demonstration of how its new 3D Touch display technology works, showing how a user could launch straight into WeChat’s “iSight Camera” mode from the iPhone 6s home screen.

“Showing WeChat yet again in their keynote just further reflects the importance of China to the company,” Bryan Ma, an Asia-based technology industry analyst at IDC, told VentureBeat.

WeChat’s Apple Watch app was already included in demos by Apple in March.

“They have to appeal to their user base after all, and that user base is increasingly growing in China where the online ecosystem is a world of its own,” Ma said.

However, he suggested that the Apple TV may still be naturally U.S.-centric, and therefore not find as strong traction in China.

In a research note, Xiaohan Tay, a senior market analyst at IDC, predicted that demand for new iPhones in China will not be affected by the negative economic conditions.

As to the 6s’ performance in neighbouring market Japan, Tokyo-based industry analyst Serkan Toto told VentureBeat that he expects the new devices to sell “like hot cakes, just like everywhere else.”

Check out our full coverage of everything Apple announced at its Wednesday event, including an all-new 12.9-inch iPad Pro and revamped Apple TV.