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iPhone 4S China Debut Turns Violent

Apple halts sales of the iPhone 4S at its retail stores in China, as angry would-be buyers egg its flagship store in Beijing
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Pent-up demand for the iPhone 4S in China led to trouble at the device's launch Friday. Apple was prepared to open doors at its main Beijing Apple Store at 7 a.m. local time to start selling the device. Customers waited overnight in temperatures that dropped below 16 degrees Fahrenheit.

When the store didn't open on time, the crowd got angry. They demanded that the store open, yelled "Liars!" and later threw eggs at the store. The local police were eventually forced to intervene and push the crowd back.

Apple then decided it would not sell the iPhone 4S at any of the five stores it operates in China.

"The demand for iPhone 4S has been incredible, and our stores in China have already sold out," an Apple spokesman said to AllThingsD. "Unfortunately, we were unable to open our store at Sanlitun due to the large crowd, and, to ensure the safety of our customers and employees, iPhone will not available in our retail stores in Beijing and Shanghai for the time being."

[ Phone makers are answering consumers' demands for faster wireless. Read LTE 4G Dominates CES. ]

That doesn't mean the iPhone 4S won't be available to Chinese consumers.

"Customers can still order iPhone through the Apple Online Store, or buy at China Unicom and other authorized resellers," said Apple.

According to witness accounts reported by Bloomberg, there was a lot of anger about how the launch was--er, wasn't--executed.

One Shanghai shopper told Bloomberg that the iPhone 4S was sold out an hour before store doors opened. The Apple store in Xidan dispersed more than 1,000 tickets to those waiting in line. Perhaps most interesting, Bloomberg spoke to migrant workers who were hired by resellers to line up for and buy the iPhone 4S at the main Beijing store. The migrant workers, bused in from the suburbs, waited 12 hours in the cold and were unable to buy the device at all. Though they received a small allowance for the day, they were not paid the $19 promised to them because they couldn't buy the phones.

For the time being, Chinese consumers will have to rely on Apple's website and China Unicom in order to purchase the iPhone 4S. Hopefully, Apple's retail operations will learn something from this failed debut.

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