The iPhone launches in China today, seems to arouse little interest (pictures from Beijing) [UPDATE]

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Japan went crazy over the iPhone when it made its debut in summer last year, but China as another big Asian market for Apple seems to react differently. The iPhone officially launched in China today, offered by China Unicom, one the country’s three big cell phone carriers. But our friends over at major Chinese news portal 163.com are reporting [Google machine translation] that not too many people were actually queuing up to get one, at least in Beijing.

Here are some pictures from the Beijing Apple Store (taken Friday afternoon Chinese time, just before sales began):

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apple_iPhone_beijing_launch

And these pictures show China Unicom seems to have over-prepared their “sales points”, too:

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These rather disappointing, initial reactions don’t mean China rejects the iPhone at all, however. Estimates put the number of iPhones sold in China before the official launch today (through imports from Hong Kong and Taiwan, for example) between two and five million units so far. China as a whole has 710 million total cellular subscribers, the most in the world.

You can find more information about iPhone distribution in China here, here and here.

We’ll update this post when we get more information and pictures.

Many thanks to Snake Chen from NetEase (which operates 163.com) for contributing to this article.

Update (all pictures courtesy of tech.163.com):

Our contacts in Beijing say the situation improved when compared to the afternoon, as more and more customers started queuing up later in the evening. According to them, “almost no one” (quote) was waiting in front of the Beijing Apple Store before 8pm, before around 50 people showed up at exactly that time. Within an hour, 150 iPhone customers were waiting to get the Jesus phone – even though it was cold and raining in Beijing. Not bad, but again, this is nothing against the hysteria when the iPhone launched in other territories (under totally different circumstances and much earlier, we know).

Here are some pictures of that location in the evening (taken between 7:40 and 8:00 pm Chinese time):

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around 8 in front of Apple store beijing

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China Unicom’s launch event was well-attended, we hear. The person who receives the frame (see picture below) from Apple’s VP is China’s first (official) iPhone owner. China Unicom’s CEO can be seen to the left of the proud guy.

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And Unicom’s “The Place” attracted a pretty good crowd later on as well, as these pictures show:

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