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Apple halts sale of iPhone 4S in Chinese cities after scuffle

By Steven Jiang, CNN
updated 2:30 PM EST, Fri January 13, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • An Apple store in a trendy Beijing district fails to open amid unruly crowds
  • Friday is the date of the introduction of the iPhone 4S in mainland China
  • Apple says it won't sell the new model in Beijing and Shanghai retail stores for now
  • The police clear away crowds of disgruntled consumers

Beijing (CNN) -- Apple halted sales of its iPhone 4S in Beijing and Shanghai on Friday after scuffles broke out over a delayed launch of the device, sending a shopper hurling eggs at one of its stores in the capital.

Hundreds of devout fans -- along with scalpers -- braved subfreezing temperatures and camped out overnight, awaiting the phone's debut near the trendy Sanlitun Village shopping mall in Beijing.

As dawn broke Friday, the mood turned sour when the store's doors remained shut beyond 7 a.m., when the sale was scheduled to start.

"Open! Open!" people chanted and booed at the employees inside.

After the scuffle, the bad news came via a megaphone that the phone would be unavailable at this Apple Store on its first day of sale. A large contingent of police officers arrived and put yellow tape around the plaza.

Dozens of police and guards slowly pushed people out of the perimeter, dragging away those who resisted, despite their screaming protests.

The tech giant -- based in Cupertino, California -- said it is halting sales in Beijing and Shanghai for customers' safety. It launched the iPhone 4S in mainland China on Friday.

"The demand for iPhone 4S has been incredible, and our stores in China have already sold out," the company said in a statement. "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 be available in our retail stores in Beijing and Shanghai for the time being."

Apple has seen phenomenal sales growth in mainland China and opened Asia's largest Apple Store in Shanghai in September. The company announced in July that its revenue from the Greater China region, which includes Hong Kong and Taiwan, reached $8.8 billion for the first three quarters of the fiscal year, a more than sixfold increase compared with the same period in the previous year.

While many in the crowd criticized Apple for not opening the store when it said it would, others turned nationalistic, blasting the United States in general.

The plaza was soon cleared, leaving iPhone fans standing outside the police tape as a giant screen teased them with Apple commercials.

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