Apple has postponed plans to begin offering the iPhone 4S through its retail locations in mainland China, the Washington Post reports. The company was forced to delay the launch because of the enormous crowds which coalesced overnight, citing concerns of public safety.
One reason for the huge turnout may be that China Unicom is giving away fully-subsidized iPhone 4S handsets with the promise of a two year contract for 16GB models. For those willing to brave a three year contract, the 32GB model can be had for "free" as well.
After waiting overnight in the bitter cold afront an Apple store in Beijing, a very large crowd of eager Chinese citizens were about to be disappointed. Around 7 am, an employee armed with a megaphone announced the store would not be opening due to safety concerns. A sign was put up claiming the iPhone 4S was "out of stock".
The most fervent members of the crowd pelted the store with eggs while other individuals shouted at employees. Police promptly dispersed the crowd and taped off the area.
Carolyn Wu, a spokeswoman for Apple stated, "We were unable to open our store at Sanlitun due to the large crowd, and to ensure the safety of our customers and employees, iPhone will not be available in our retail stores in Beijing and Shanghai"
Reportedly, many of the people waiting were large groups of migrant workers hired by scalpers to purchase iPhones for resale. The reason for scalpers hiring entire busloads of people is likely due to the fact that Apple has limited sales of its handsets to two per customer.
Since Apple has only a handful of stores located exclusively in Beijing and Shanghai, scalpers routinely buy up highly desirable Apple merchandise. Monopolizing on those products, scalpers then fleece Chinese consumers with exorbitantly re-priced Apple products. One such group was paid $15 each to take the bus there and wait in line.
Although local mainland retail locations will not carry the phone for an unknown amount of time, Chinese customers may still purchase the iPhone 4S through Apple's online store, China Unicom and resellers.