Apple resorts to reservations amid China iPhone shortage

Potential customers in China have to reserve online before buying an iPhone 4 through an Apple Store

Chinese users wanting to buy an iPhone 4 best first place a reservation before venturing to an Apple Store. With the device selling out in retail outlets across China, Apple is now requiring all potential customers to first reserve the device online, before they can come buy the device at one of their stores.

Customers are restricted to buying only one iPhone 4 per day, and must provide proper identification that matches with their reservation when coming to make the actual purchase, according to Apple's China website.

"Because the number of reservations is so high, we can only help you with your purchase when confirming your reservation," the company website adds.

Apple has yet to provide any figures on iPhone 4 sales in China. But China Unicom, the sole mobile service provider of the device, reported selling 100,000 iPhone 4s in the first four days after the device launched on Sept. 25. China Unicom stopped online reservations for the device after 200,000 users signed up for pre-orders.

Apple has said more iPhone 4s will be available soon and that customers should check back with their local store. But the company's current reservation system is still forcing some customers to wait.

Each day, Apple is only taking a limited number of reservations, said an Apple sales representative. By Friday late morning, those reservations were gone as Apple's China website reported that all four stores in the country no longer had the iPhone 4 in stock.

This has left some potential buyers frustrated.

"I've been coming every morning to this Apple store for the last week, and still it has been sold out," said one customer, who would only give out his last name as Wong. On Friday afternoon, he visited one Apple store in Beijing, only to leave angered. "Now today they told me I have to buy online. I'm 60 years old and I don't own a computer," he said.

Still, Wong said he was determined to buy an iPhone 4. "I don't want to die before experiencing the best things in life," he added.

Customers who had reserved an iPhone 4 at the Apple Store in Beijing's Sanlitun Village were forced to first wait in line before claiming their device, with security guards watching. The store has tried to stop scalping, posting signs outside warning that action will be taken against people harassing or hawking goods to customers.

One customer surnamed Tao, who waited in line for an iPhone 4 at the store on Friday, said buying the device was convenient. "I only waited 30 minutes in line," he said. "It was very easy to reserve one. I did it last night. It only took me five minutes."

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Michael Kan

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