Apple's revenues in China could be down 20 per cent in China in its quarterly earnings report, according to research by Baidu, the so-called "Chinese Google."
As part of its online suite of products Baidu offers mapping software and a search platform. It has about a 70 to 80 per cent market share in search in China and logs billions of location requests on Baidu Maps.
Using this so called "big data" from the use of its map and search products, which is all anonymized, Baidu said it could predict employment and consumer trends and their impact on a company's revenues.
It used these tools on Apple's retail sales in China, selecting a list of flagship Apple stores in mainland China and the counting the volume of map queries of all the stores.
Baidu found that in the last quarter of 2015, map query volumes were up 15.4 per cent year-on-year, which corresponded with a 14 per cent rise in Apple's China revenue in that same period.
But in the first quarter of 2016, map queries declined 24.5 per cent year-on-year, which was parallel with a 26 per cent decline in Apple's China revenue.
"The impressively strong correlation indicates that map query data provides possibilities for us to 'nowcast' the company's revenues and reveal the future trends. Based on our analysis of latest data, we project that the Apple's revenue in China of second quarter of 2016 may be down around 20 per cent on a year-over-year basis," Baidu concluded.
The "second-quarter" that Baidu references is Apple's fiscal third-quarter and will be announced on July 26. Apple did not respond to a request for comment when contacted by CNBC.
Apple has been struggling in China recently and losing market share due to increased competition from domestic rivals such as Huawei, Vivo and Oppo. The US tech giant is expected to face its first down year for iPhone in 2016 with shipments dropping from 232 million in 2015 to 227 million in 2016, according to IDC. In April, China shut down iTunes Movies and iBooks just six months after Apple introduced the services there, adding to the company's woes.
Apple has been trying to make in-roads into China, recently investing $1 billion in Chinese ride hailing app Didi Chuxing.
Baidu is hoping to sell its services, and it also outlined ways in which it could predict other economic metrics about China, given that investors have been quite sceptical about official figures out of the world's second-largest economy.
"These features are quite valuable to market participants and policy makers who need timely and reliable data to make decisions," Baidu said in its research note which it used to introduce "Mobimetrics: it dedicates to quantify the dynamics of social system by analysing massive individual mobility data."