Apple's iPhone 4S release postponed in China

Policemen guard as people waiting outside an Apple store all night prior to the mainland release of iPhone 4S on January 12, 2012 in Beijing, China.

Jeremy Hobson: When you think of companies that really get consumers, Apple has to be up there. So what happened today in China comes as a bit of a surprise. Apple had to halt iPhone sales there after a disastrous and violent launch.

Marketplace's China bureau chief Rob Schmitz joins us now from Shanghai to explain what happened. Hi Rob.

Rob Schmitz: Hey Jeremy.

Hobson: So they were supposed to unveil the iPhone 4S -- what happened?

Schmitz: People waited in line all night, both at their stores in Shanghai and Beijing. And at the store in Beijing, the Apple crew in that store decided that the crowd looked a little too unruly. And they just announced 15 minutes after they were supposed to open that they weren't going to sell the iPhones, which led people into sort of a frenzy -- a barrage of eggs and things were thrown at the store. So it wasn't a pretty picture.

Hobson: And this is not the first time that Apple has had a botched launch of a product in China. I read that the iPad 2 there was a similar situation.

Schmitz: Right. Last year at the launch of the iPad 2, there was a fist fight at the same store, and a store window was smashed in the process of that.

Hobson: Now, this doesn't sound so unusual that there would be a big frenzy when one of these big Apple products comes out. But does it signal some kind of a misunderstanding about the China market by Apple?

Schmitz: Well, I think that when you talk to folks who look at the China market, that's exactly what they say -- that Apple does underestimate their popularity here in China. Of the 300 stores that Apple has globally, only five of them are in China, and that's despite the fact that China is now its second biggest market to the United States. And so that's not great representation, shall we say.

Hobson: Marketplace China bureau chief Rob Schmitz. Rob, thanks a lot.

Schmitz: Thanks Jeremy.

About the author

Rob Schmitz is Marketplace’s China correspondent in Shanghai.

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