Scalper Scuffle Scuttles iPhone 4S Launch in China

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Customers line up around the Apple Store in Beijing, China.

The Beijing Apple Store was the site of a similar incident at the iPad 2's debut.

Apple customers in China who waited overnight to buy an iPhone 4S were left in the cold after the launch was postponed following a scuffle between would-be scalpers and others.

The devices were due to go on sale at 7 am, but rowdy behavior on the crowd's part both during the night and when the store failed to open at the appointed time led to anger among some in line. Apple ultimately decided to confine sales to its authorized carrier partner, China Unicom, and to its website.

“The demand for iPhone 4S has been incredible, and our stores in China have already sold out,” an Apple spokesperson 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 available in our retail stores in Beijing and Shanghai for the time being. Customers can still order iPhone through the Apple Online Store, or buy at China Unicom and other authorized resellers.”

Apple was likely interested in avoid a repeat of an incident that took place in early May, 2011, when a shoving match that broke out at the launch of the iPad 2 led to a broken window at the Beijing Apple Store, and a similar move of devices out of stores and onto the company's website. 

The company's stores in Beijing and Shanghai are among its most-visited and highest in revenue generation. 

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