There was much ado about the iPhone 4S arriving in China on Friday. Perhaps a little too much ado as riots broke out in front of some Apple stores and Chinese consumers launched eggs at the buildings after the popular handset sold out.
Much like in the U.S., Chinese consumers flocked to Apple stores in droves to be among the first to get their hands on the iPhone 4S, with its 1080p HD video recording and Siri intelligent assistant.
Before the launch, Apple CEO Tim Cook said: "Customer response to our products in China has been off the charts. With the launch in China next week, iPhone 4S will be available in over 90 countries, making this our fastest iPhone rollout ever."
Apple probably wasn't expecting the unfortunate sequence of events that happened next. Apple was forced to delay the release of its iPhone 4S at retail stores in both Beijing and Shanghai on Friday after a riot almost broke out at one of its stores in Beijing, according to the Los Angeles Times.
"To ensure the safety of our customers and employees, [the] iPhone will not be available in our retail stores in Beijing and Shanghai for the time being," the Times reported Carolyn Wu, an Apple spokeswoman in Beijing, as saying. Apparently, Apple's five authorized stores in China sold out.
That led to an angry mob. Many consumers had reportedly waited overnight to get the iPhone 4S, and when the disappointing news arrived they started launching eggs at the store and assaulting the mall manager, according to the Times.
Not Apple's Fault
"When you have a few hundred angry Chinese migrant workers who were paid to stand in line become afraid that if you don't open the doors they are not going to get paid, they get angry," said Avi Greengart, an analyst at Current Analysis. "If you do open the doors they all crush each other and die. It shows how important the iPhone is as a status symbol in emerging markets."
Greengart quickly noted that issues like this are not limited to China. There have been a number of similar issues in the United States on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. People have even died in the rush into stores. Apple's move to postpone the launch at certain stores, he said, is a move to prevent moblike behavior.
"People are egging the store because they stood in line hoping to get an iPhone because they were going to resell it or they were being paid to stand in line," Greengart said. "The iPhone is at the center of that. But it's not anything Apple has done per se. I assume people who are standing in line need the money to buy food. Instead, they threw the food at Apple."