iPhone launch doesn't break the stratosphere

Updated: 2012-01-20 11:12

By Wang Huazhong (China Daily)

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BEIJING - Tech company Apple is not alone in finding the Chinese market's zeal for its iPhone 4S surprising.

Since the device's launch was canceled at retail stores, fans dying to snatch up the phone in the face of scarce supply are also finding it hard to differentiate the new hot product from the earlier generation iPhone 4.

"I don't feel the new handset is much faster in running applications than the iPhone 4 or sense any other significantly improved experience," said an avid 25-year-old Apple fan, Zheng Jin.

"Moreover, it looks and weighs exactly like the iPhone 4."

Dubbing it "the most amazing iPhone yet", Apple's website said the iPhone 4S dual-core chip delivers more power than iPhone 4 and its new operating system, IOS 5, is the easiest to use.

"Yet I can't tell any difference other than an enhanced camera. Nothing else," said Zheng, adding she can also update the IOS to the latest version freely on iPhone 4.

However, the exclusive Siri function for the iPhone 4S that helps users do things such as setting agendas and searching locations by voice is not available in Chinese.

Another Apple fan from Beijing, Yang Beibei, 24, said she does not want to switch to the new gear after trying it.

"I don't understand why so many people overpay for values they can't get, especially when the iPhone 4 is equivalently intelligent."

"Besides, Siri is more like a toy that young people like me can play with to kill time. It's not as useful as to a businessman."

The lowest retail price for an iPhone 4S without a carrier plan is 4,988 yuan ($790) for 16 gigabytes of memory, compared to 3,988 yuan for an 8-gigabyte iPhone 4.

In an online poll on Sina.com, 8,254 people voted against recommending the purchase of an iPhone 4S versus 1,936 people favoring it.

Yet the gizmo remains the hottest in town to get.

Authorized resellers, such as online stores of Suning Appliance Co and Sundan Electronic Store, charge 300 yuan to 400 yuan more than the official price.

Sellers also imposed a strict policy allowing consumers to buy just one or two phones.

However, dozens of online shoppers left comments saying Suning's delivery dates were delayed after they made the payment.

Apple has still not begun directly selling the device in its retail stores or official website since its launch last Friday.

Many scalpers, who hired people to line up at Apple stores to buy and stock up on the phone for resell, got into conflicts with each other that day.

Management consultants specializing in the telecom industry said Chinese consumers' zeal for iPhone 4S despite its slight performance enhancement is "not a strange phenomenon".

"Apple historically provides expensive products only to a niche group of hard-core technology enthusiasts or early adopters. But the niche group becomes a large number of people in China given the country's large population," explained Huang Yu, principal with Monitor Group.

He said the Chinese are more vulnerable to be affected by marketing schemes and, moreover, even ordinary people in China desire luxurious products and use them as status symbols.