BEIJING - Lei Shaofeng, a security guard, was shocked at the sight of a massive crowd waiting outside the Apple store on Friday in downtown Beijing.
A customer looks at an iPad 2 during the China launch at an Apple Store in central Beijing May 6, 2011. [Photo/Agencies]
"When we arrived here at around 4 am, there were already more than 500 people waiting," said Lei.
He is one of 50 security guards hired by the store to maintain order as Apple Inc.'s iPad 2 went on sale in China at 8 a.m. Friday, almost two months after it did in the United States.
"The crowd rose to some 1,000 people when the store opened," he said, adding he had never seen such a huge crowd during his more-than-one-year duty as a security guard there.
The debut of Apple's iPad 2 tablet computer in China has generated a frenzy among Apple fans who braved long lines to snap up the popular device.
Many of them were willing to wait overnight to be one of the first in China to get their hands on the device. A sales person at one retail store in Shanghai said about 100 consumers were queued outside the store at 10 p.m. Thursday.
Consumers can buy the latest version of Apple's tablet computer online, at four Apple retail stores in Beijing and Shanghai, and at Apple's distributors including Gome and Suning, China's top electronics retailers.
The WiFi iPad 2 costs 3,688 yuan for the 16GB model, 300 yuan lower than that of iPad 1. The 32GB and 64GB models cost 4,488 yuan and 5,222 yuan, respectively.
Wu Yuan, a 37-year-old white collar, is crazy about Apple's products. He has used every version of the iPhone and an iPad 1.
He asked for a day off work to queue for two tablet computers at the Beijing store, one for his own use and the other as a gift.
"I want to have an iPad 2 although I already have an iPad 1," he said. "The new one is more fashionable and user-friendly. I just love it."
The launch of WiFi iPad 2 also drew dozens of scalpers to congregate outside the retail store, offering to sell the device with extra 200 yuan to 300 yuan on its original sales price.
"Stop queuing for the device! You exchange 300 yuan for five hours," one scalper, with more than 10 iPad 2 in hand, cried out loudly to people standing in the line.
The scalpers and their families came Thursday night in an attempt to hoard the tablet computers as Apple caps individual purchases to two black models or one white model.
Wang Fei is one of them and he is confident that he can sell his iPads and make some money. "There is nothing to be afraid of. China only has four retail stores and many private shops are waiting for supplies. As long as we can buy the device, the more the better," he said.
However, not everyone in China is affected by the hysteria surrounding the popular computer.
Some passers-by, whose curiosity got the better of them, entered the store to enquire, but left after finding out about the price, saying "it's so crazy!"
Yang Jiang, 54 years old, witnessed such feverish purchase at the store when she came to complain about her newly-bought iPhone 4 for short-lived battery, an impulse buy following her colleagues and friends.
She thought that Chinese consumers are not rational. "The products are expensive and middle-aged people don't know how to use them. They buy them only because they have more money now and want to be part of the trend," she said.