While the Chinese market has always been a promising sector for Apple, the Cupertino, California-based tech encountered a few challenges when it failed to secure long lines last weekend. At one prominent Apple Store in China, only one person waited outside before the store opened. At another location, no more than two people showed up.
This scenario was a strong reminder of the lukewarm reception Apple received when the third-generation iPad was released in China. At that time, a mere 30 people lined up to buy the device.
Despite the small lines, the iPad eventually went on to become the most successful iPad in China. During the third quarter, Apple dominated the industry with a 70 percent share of the Chinese market. As impressive as that was, however, Apple still only sold an estimated 1.8 million tablets.
Apple's success with the iPhone 5 is far more intriguing. Not only did the company sell more than two million units in a weekend (topping iPad sales that occurred in an entire quarter), but Apple managed to pull this off without attracting a large crowd at any one particular store.
This could teach Apple a thing or two about the Chinese market. Whereas most people assume that smartphones have the potential to draw long lines throughout the world (as evidenced by Meizu, one of the many Apple clones in China), it appears that Chinese consumers may be different. They do need to wait in line for a week to buy the latest and greatest smartphone; they will simply walk into a store and buy it whenever they please.
Apple may try to change this mentality by hyping the limited quantities that accompany most iDevice launches. That strategy may not be successful, however. While it is enough to get Americans to line up for hours, it may not be enough to motivate Chinese customers.
Something did motivate them, however. It could have been the sleeker, thinner and longer design. Others may have been persuaded by the reduced weight or the enhanced camera. New iPhone customers likely purchased the device to take advantage of the App Store. Some may have bought it simply because it is a hot new gadget.
"Customer response to iPhone 5 in China has been incredible, setting a new record with the best first weekend sales ever in China," Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a company release. "China is a very important market for us and customers there cannot wait to get their hands on Apple products."
Whatever the case, Apple's ongoing marketing campaign is working. It may not dominate the Chinese smartphone space, and it may not have signed a deal with China Mobile, the nation's largest carrier. Apple is, however, making tremendous progress.
Thus far, investors have not been too inspired by this development. In pre-market trading, the iPhone maker is up less than one percent.
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