Remember those riots at the iPhone 4S launch in Shanghai and Beijing last week? Meet the group responsible for them: this orange-capped crowd of scalpers, an army of 500 strong so organized and massive that it took eleven busses to bring them to the event.
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Apple, a veteran of long lines ahead of iPhone launches in the U.S., has temporarily halted retail sales of the iPhone 4S in China. The tech giant announced Friday it has stopped in-person sales in Beijing and Shanghai “for the time being” in the wake of a near-riot by angry scalpers.
The iPhone 4S is set to finally launch in China tomorrow, but that hasn’t stopped the locals from lining up early to secure access to the coveted handset. The line for Apple’s flagship store in Beijing has gotten so out of control that Apple may have to cancel the launch there altogether.
Reports are coming in that Beijing SWAT teams have already been called in to handle thousands of angry scalpers and potential customers. There have reportedly been fights in the streets between gangs of professional scalpers that buy Apple devices in bulk to then resell at a higher price.
There are still nearly 12 hours to go before Apple’s iPhone 4S makes it debut in China, but hundreds are already lining up outside of five Apple retail stores in the hope that they will be one of the first to get their hands on the fifth-generation device.
There’s a huge demand for the iPhone in China, a demand so big that Apple is continually struggling to meet it. That means there’s plenty of business for scalpers who obtain the device any way they can, just to sell it off for a huge profit in the grey and black markets.
And these scalpers are smart and tech-minded. To make the whole process of buying iPhones a lot easier, scalpers have built a special application that purchases the smartphones in bulk from the Apple online store. Even worse, it runs on Windows. Oh, the irony.
Apple’s iPhone 4S has proven to be a huge hit in Hong Kong, with the city’s flagship Apple store selling all of its stock within a matter of hours. The fifth-generation device went on sale at 7 AM local time, but by lunchtime it was all gone.