People wait outside an Apple store for the iPhone 4S model as egg stains are seen on the left side of the window glass in Beijing in January. An angry crowd shouted and threw eggs at Apple’s Beijing flagship store after it failed to open on schedule to sell the popular smartphones.
Beijing Apple Store Scuffle
A fight broke out at the Apple store in Beijing’s upscale Sanlitun shopping area on Saturday as shoppers lined up to get their hands on the recently restocked white iPhone 4, which has been repeatedly selling out since it’s mainland China launch in late April.
The big question for the China launch of the new iPad on Friday isn’t whether it will sell well, but if the retailer can keep the police out of it.
When the iPhone 4S launched in January, hundreds of customers waited overnight outside the Apple store in Beijing’s tony Sanlitun shopping district. But when the surrounded store didn’t open as expected the next morning, at least one fan pelted the facade with eggs and by midmorning authorities had moved in to disperse the mass of expectant customers thronging the outside of the store. The incident led Apple to temporarily suspend sales of the iPhone 4S in the five retail stores it then had in China.
It has happened before. In May 2011, on the first of the sale of a white iPhone, shoppers scuffled with employees, and one of the same Sanlitun store’s windows ended up smashed.
This time Apple is taking a different approach. According to the press release announcing sales of the new iPad on July 10, the company will begin taking reservation requests for the tablet on its online store daily from 9 am to 12 pm beginning Thursday, the day before the official launch on Friday. Customers will then be given a set time to pick up their devices.
Word about the new sales approach has been spreading around China’s popular Sina Weibo microblogging service. Apple Exchange, a Weibo account with about 1.3 million fans, put out a message reminding users of the order-ahead process.
But some users were less than clear about what that meant. One Weibo user responded to the message asking, “pre-order means what? Every machine has to be ordered ahead of time?”
It remains to be seen how many would-be customers have gotten the message, and whether those who were frustrated with their attempts to order the iPad online might not just show up at the store to try their luck.
Also unclear is what role scalpers will play this time around. In January, China’s state-run Xinhua news agency reported that clashes between two groups of scalpers were to blame for the fracas in front of the Apple store.
It is also still possible interest isn’t as high for the new iPad as it was for the iPhone 4S. Some commenters on Weibo were less excited about going to get a new iPad, which critics have said offers to few improvements over the previously released iPad 2. “Don’t have much interest (in buying the new iPad),” wrote one user posting under the handle Reject You.
Others pointed out that they’ve waited so long for the new iPad to come out in China that they might just wait for the smaller iPad that sources have said Apple is making.
The incidents have proven to be only bumps in Apple campaign to win China. The country is now its No. 2 market by sales after the U.S.
–Paul Mozur. Follow him on Twitter @paulmozur