Apple pulled the iPhone 4S out of China before one of the nation's most lucrative shopping seasons - happy news for Samsung, whose Galaxy S2 rates luckier than the iPhone 4S.
Apple is poised to miss out on one of the most lucrative
shopping seasons in one of its largest markets. The Chinese New Year week of
celebrations kicks off this Monday, Jan. 23, but Apple ceased sales of the
iPhone 4S in all five of its China retail stores Jan. 13, Bloomberg
could prove enormously beneficial for the high-riding Samsung.
China's online store is also sold out of iPhone 4S handsets,
but the disappearance of the device seems instead linked
to events of Jan. 13,
when a crowd of shoppers - who had waited at a
Beijing store overnight in sub-freezing temperatures for the device but were
told in the morning that the store would not open and that they should disperse
- turned rowdy. Eggs were thrown at the store, after by some accounts a
man showed up with a bag of them and passed them around.
Another significant contributor to the mayhem were the
hundreds of people - some students, some unemployed - who were paid by
scalpers to stand in line and procure iPhone 4S handsets, which would then be
sold on the gray market. After hours of waiting, they gradually clashes with
similarly paid "placeholders" hired by rival scalpers, as well as traditional
Apple fans wanting devices for themselves.
At another Beijing location, as at a Shanghai store, the
doors opened on time, all went according to plan, and all the smartphones were sold.
China is Apple's second-largest market, and with its
fast-rising middleclass, a focus for much of the mobile industry as well.
During a conference call with analysts and journalists Jan.
19, to talk about fourth-quarter
, Intel President and CEO Paul Otellini said emerging
markets are a key part of his company's mobile device strategy, noting that
there are 950 million smartphone subscribers in China, with that number
expected to grow rapidly.
Nokia, too, has repeatedly pointed out the potential in
China, which, with India, was a big focus during the launch of its first
Windows Phone handsets.
Apple has said it plans to open 25 retail locations in China
over the next few years, and executives have said that Apple China stores are
among its highest in traffic and revenue. Apple CEO Tim Cook has called it
"an area of enormous opportunity" and unlike anything he's seen in
Citing Chinese government statistics, Bloomberg reports that
the 2011 Chinese New Year generated $64 billion in retail sales, and that
Apple's absence could be a big win for Samsung, the smartphone maker that has
had the most success backing the Android platform.
While Android backers such as Motorola, HTC and most
recently Sony Ericsson have pointed to intense competition as a reason for
recent financial setbacks, Strategy Analytics analyst Neil Mawston says what's
really in their way are Apple and Samsung.
"It it was mostly tougher competition from Apple and
Samsung that crushed Sony Ericsson's worldwide growth and profits during the
quarter," Mawston told eWeek. "The Apple iPhone 4S and Samsung Galaxy
S2 models are proving wildly popular at the moment, and most other models from
most other brands, including Sony Ericsson, are struggling to gain traction.
Sony Ericsson is broadly in the same boat as HTC, Motorola, Nokia and RIM, in
that they don't currently have a killer model or sub-brand that is truly wowing
higher-end consumers and operators."
Another thought: Perhaps, on a holidays built around good
luck, with a central tenet of never saying the number four - considered
very back luck, since in a number of Asian languages "four" is a homonym
for "death" - devices like the Galaxy S2, even in Apple-obsessed
China, might seem a more auspicious gift than an Apple iPhone 4S.