BEIJING – Apple on Friday suspended the sale of its new iPhone 4S at some stores in mainland China after a rowdy egg-throwing crowd disrupted the device's debut at one of its two official stores in Beijing.
Would-be customers, many of whom had waited overnight in the freezing cold to be among the first to purchase the latest iPhone, became so unruly when the store at the swank Sanlitun shopping district failed to open its doors that Apple was forced to cancel first-day sales there, All Things Digital reported.
Rather than risk a repeat of the incident, the company has decided not to sell the 4S at any of its retail stores in Beijing and Shanghai. Instead, it will sell the device through its website and carrier partners.
"The demand for iPhone 4S has been incredible, and our stores in China have already sold out," Apple spokeswoman Carolyn Wu said.
"Unfortunately 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 available in our retail stores in Beijing and Shanghai for the time being. Customers can still order iPhone through the Apple Online Store, or buy at China Unicom and other authorized resellers."
About 1,000 people had queued for hours, waiting for the store's Friday opening which failed to materialize, sparking violent scenes, AFP reported.
Police detained at least two people after customers scuffled, threw eggs at the glass front of the store and shouted at staff to open the doors.
Frustrated shoppers attacked a security guard outside the shop after police with megaphones shouted at the crowd to go home and said the new iPhone would not go on sale.
"We waited here all night. It's not fair," said 18-year-old Tom Sun. "We're angry because this American company told us it would open its doors at 7:00am."
Another would-be customer, Li Tianye, had traveled for two days by bus from eastern China's Shandong province to get to Beijing for the launch.
"IPhone 4S is Steve Jobs' best, that's why I want one," said the 29-year-old.
Some of the people gathered said they had been paid 100 yuan (US$16) each by touts to stand in line and wait for the doors to open.
But not everyone was disappointed. Some Beijing shoppers said they had bought the phone from a nearby electronics retailer after being turned away from the official Apple store.
"There was a problem at the Apple store. Too many angry people," said one, a young Chinese man who gave only his surname, Du, adding that he had been waiting since Thursday evening to buy the phone.
Calmer scenes were witnessed in Shanghai, where Apple stores opened to large crowds and the phone was on sale.
Die-hard fans in China, which has the world's largest online population with more than 500 million users, have been known to line up for days to get their hands on the latest Apple products.
The California-based company has recently expanded aggressively in China, opening its first store in Hong Kong and its third in Shanghai last September, which brings the total to six in Greater China.
But Apple's popularity has also brought problems, with widespread counterfeiting and illegal smuggling of its products.
In July, an American blogger uncovered fake Apple stores in the southwestern city of Kunming, where even staff working there did not appear to know they were fake.