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No crowds as Apple's iPhone 11 hits stores in China

People queue outside an Apple store as the new iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max go on sale in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China on September 20, 2019. Photograph:( Reuters )

Reuters Beijing, China Sep 20, 2019, 06.20 PM (IST)

Apple's latest iPhone 11 range hit stores in China on Friday, with short queues of die-hard fans contrasting with the hundreds who camped out ahead of previous launches.

The sales performance of the US tech giant's latest line-up is being closely watched in the world's largest smartphone market, where Apple has been losing ground to competitors with cheaper and feature-packed handsets in recent years.

The queues at the Shanghai and Beijing stores added up to few dozen customers, were in sharp contrast to previous years, when hundreds used to wait for hours outside Apple's shops to be the first to grab its latest offerings.

But much of the fanfare in China has moved online where the pre-sales for iPhone 11, priced between $699 and $1,099, started last week.

Analysts said they had gotten off to a better start than the last cycle a year ago. Chinese e-commerce site JD.com said day one pre-sales for the iPhone 11 series were up 480% versus comparable sales for the iPhone XR last year.

Among the customers who went to a store in Beijing on Friday to make a purchase in person was a programmer who only gave his surname as Liu and said that he has owned a model from every Apple series since the 3G range.

He said he was particularly attracted to the more expensive iPhone 11 Pro, which has three cameras on the back. "When it comes to taking photos, it's better for night shots and the image is clearer", he told Reuters.

Other customers, however, said that they were concerned that the range was not enabled for fifth-generation networks, putting them behind 5G models already released by China's Huawei Technologies and smaller rival Vivo, and expressed hopes that Apple could make it happen for its next line-up.