Short Lines Greet Latest iPhone Release In China

Apple shares slid Friday morning after the release of two iPhone 12 models that went on sale in China earlier in the day. From Shanghai to Beijing, Apple stores saw low-turnout on launch day, due mostly because of the shift to online ordering. 

Early preordering of Apple's new 5G-enabled smartphones had a strong online response by consumers in a post-pandemic world. Unlike some Americans, the Chinese appear smart enough not to gather in long lines as flare-ups of the virus pandemic are being reported in many parts of the world.

Reuters reports Apple stores in Shanghai had limited turnout, while CNN reports stores in Beijing's Wangfujing neighborhood had "no line out the door as there had been on previous launch days." 

Less than two dozen people waited at a store in Shanghai. One Apple customer told Reuters: 

"I feel great being the first customer to get the new iPhone," said Yan Bingqing, 30, who arrived before the store opened, and was in a line of about 20 people. 

The virus pandemic has transformed how consumers shop. On Friday, China's social media networks had top trending topics related to the new iPhone. JD.Com, a leading Chinese electronic reseller, said more than 500,000 preorders for the iPhone 12 Pro had been seen since last Friday. 

Overall, Apple's announcement a week and a half ago for the new iPhone drew mixed reviews according to a Caijing magazine poll. While 10,000 of those polled voted they would not buy the new iPhone, 9,269 said yes, and 5,400 said they were uncertain. 

Some Chinese customers said the iPhone is too expensive, considering it doesn't come with headphones or a power adapter. There's also a concern of rising nationalism in the country; as Sino-US relations continue to deteriorate, the Chinese have been gravitating towards domestic brands. 

The release of Apple's 5G-enabled smartphone is more than one year late compared to Huawei's 5G phone, the Huawei Mate 20 X 5G, launch in summer 2019. 

"From the bottom of my heart, it's a little bit late for Apple to release the 5G iPhone," Zhu Lin, another Apple fan, who waited in a small line in Shanghai, told Reuters. "I was expecting it last year." 

Recently, research firm Canalys increased its forecast for Chinese iPhone shipments for the fourth quarter to 14% year-on-year growth — from the original 1% decrease.