Siri might not be able to understand Mandarin Chinese (or any Chinese, for that matter), but that didn’t seem to deter the people of Taiwan from buying up the new smartphone in droves. Well over 400,000 pre-orders were made online for the newest iPhone, besting all other pre-order numbers in the nation for previous iPhones. The popularity caused the servers of all three major carriers – Chunghwa Telecom, FarEastone, and Taiwan Mobile – to crash soon after pre-orders were made available on December 1st. Chunghwa Telecom’s estimates of 150,000 pre-orders were blown away, as the service provider saw north of 200,000 pre-orders placed before the device was released this morning.
One of the reasons for the pre-order boom was the activity of scalpers. Pre-order certificates were selling online for about $4,000NT (roughly $130), for people who didn’t get their pre-orders in quickly enough. There was likely interest in moving up in line, too – far fewer units were in the first shipment than there were pre-orders, leaving a lot of Taiwanese today still waiting for their iPhone 4S to come in.
It sounds like a recipe for in-store madness, but consider this launch a crisis averted. Lines cropped up outside some stores, but the release was largely a quiet one. Customers who pre-ordered designated a specific store for pick-up when ordering online. The individual telecom stores called those who submitted pre-orders earliest well before this morning, letting them know they would be able to pick up their device, and preventing what would likely have otherwise been chaos. Looks like they took the sensible, no fun route with this launch. Taiwan’s iPhone 4 launch was organized in a similar fashion, but larger lines were seen for that release.
One employee in a Chunghwa Telecom store in downtown Kaohsiung expected a big crowd of people to form well before store open this morning, but only a small line materialized within an hour of the store opening. While the Kaohsiung launch was more muted, Taipei saw a little more excitement, seeing lines at the largest stores forming around midnight with people eager to be the first in the nation to get the iPhone 4S. From the sounds of it, those who now hold their iPhone 4S are a (relatively) lucky few, indeed – one employee in another Chunghwa Telecom store admitted that, “We only received maybe seven [iPhone 4S units] today.”
The iPhone 4S is valued at about $20,000NT (about $670) in Taiwan, with discounts available to those who signed contracts with Chunghwa Telecom, FarEastone, or Taiwan Mobile upon purchase. Taiwan wasn’t the only country to see the new iPhone for the first time today – Brazil, Russia, the Philippines, South Africa, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Chile, Israel, Thailand, Turkey, and Vietnam all had official iPhone 4S launch days today.
Many across Taiwan are now enjoying their new iPhone 4S, with the expectation that sometime in 2012 they’ll be able to make use of what many consider to be the 4S’ defining feature. Sounds like it’s time for Siri to start cracking those books.