Apple Explains Why China Didn’t Queue Up for the iPhone 5 Launch

Cupertino is preventing riots and scalping with new rules set in place for the country

So-called pundits (and investors alike) misinterpreted the modest debut of the iPhone 5 in China, after observing that few customers lined up in front of the company’s retail stores to purchase the handset. There’s a good reason why this year’s launch has “failed” to attract lines.

Unlike previous years when Apple treated China like any other market, this time around the Cupertino giant instated some strict rules regarding iPhone purchases.

One of these rules says you can’t buy it unlocked by just waltzing inside a store – you have to reserve it online. A pain in the neck if you’re the type with scalping habits, and Apple has had its share these past few years. So no more that, for one.

Another reason, as MIC Gadget points out, is that Chinese buyers have a tendency to spawn riots every time a hot Apple product launches in the country.

The last time it happened, a lot of people ended up injured. Customers know this, so they prefer buying online.

So the reality is that Apple simply has different rules set in place for China, where store launches have a bad track record.

The company even confirmed this via an email response to the aforementioned Chinese site, saying, “As it appears now, the only way to purchase an unlocked phone will be online. Only contract iPhone 5 phones will be sold in store.”

“We are continuously monitoring our website for any changes.’ The unsubsidized iPhone 5 starts from ¥5,288 or about $850 if you reserve one from Apple’s China site,” said a company representative.

In addition to China, Apple this week launched the iPhone 5 Albania, Antigua and Barbuda, Armenia, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Ecuador, Grenada, Indonesia, Israel, Jamaica, Jordan, Kuwait, Macedonia Malaysia, Moldova, Montenegro, Panama, Paraguay, the Philippines, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Taiwan, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.

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