A-peel of iPhone 4S is too much for Beijing crowd

Apple says it won't be selling its latest gadget in Beijing or Shanghai after violent outbursts among crowds waiting outside one of its stores.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 25 Jan 2012
Oh dear, Apple. Is this any way to treat your fastest-growing market? There have been scenes of violence outside one of the company’s stores in China, after it decided to abandon plans to sell its latest iPhone – the 4S. Apparently, a crowd awaiting the launch of the 4S had descended into chaos two hours before Beijing store was due to open, prompting the decision to stop selling the phone, ‘to ensure the safety of our customers and employees’. Which caused even more outbreaks of violence. What’s that? Could it be the sound of Steve Jobs turning in his grave?

With a newly-rich middle class keen to splash its cash on the zippiest, shiniest gadgets around, you’d think China would be Apple’s dream market. But don’t underestimate the power of demand: one of the biggest problems it’s had with new launches are ‘scalpers’: gangs of immigrant workers, paid to grab as many of the phones as possible, then stand outside the store once the new gadget is sold out and flog their acquisitions at an inflated price. Apparently this time, the scalpers were more organised than usual, sporting coloured armbands to show who they were working for and led by someone carrying a balloon of the corresponding colour. We know. Scary, isn’t it?

On this occasion, their presence was apparently enough to cause fights among the 1,000 or so people waiting in the plaza outside the store. Apple has thus – not altogether unreasonably – put its foot down and said that it won’t be selling the phones (which are at the top of millions of Chinese New Year gift wishlists) in any of its stores in Beijing or Shanghai for the foreseeable future. That caused further outbursts among the crowd, who attacked police and swore. Some apparently even had to be stretchered out.

Luckily for the angry mob, once it’s calmed down, it’ll still be able to buy the phones online and in shops – just not at Apple stores. Let’s hope Siri, the 4S’ ‘digital PA’, has a few good suggestions for 'anger management' - failing that, a cure for 'Apple fever'.

- Image credit:Flickr/Liz Phung

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