Apple Unleashes iPad in China

Apple’s iPad was officially released in China on Friday, only five months after being released in the United States in May.

Why is this a big deal? The iPad has been selling at a furious pace around the world and its official release in China means one thing is certain: you’re about to see these devices all over the place in China’s major cities.

And here’s what I think: when Chinese people get iPads in their hands (like I have) they’re not going to just like them – it’s going to spark a shift in the computing habits of casual and power computer users across China.

iPad Sparks Consumer Revolution

Days after the iPad was announced, I authored a post on Chengdu Living musing about Using the iPad to Study Chinese. Since the iPhone and iPad touch already make the best platform in the computing world for language learning, it follows that the iPad has the potential to improve the experience with its faster processor and generously large display. But don’t think that this is limited to language learners, because the iPad is proving itself to be a revolutionary device that’s changing the entire mobile landscape.

Two days ago Best Buy’s CEO said that the iPad is cannibalizing up to 50% of laptop sales. And while that may be an overstatement, the writing is on the wall: the entire laptop industry is in serious trouble because of the consumer revolution sparked by this single device.

Laptop sales

Chinese Consumers Reaction

Put simple, Chinese people love the iPad. I’ve been using one since it was launched in the US and everywhere I bring it, it catches the attention of people nearby. The first month that I took it out to coffee shops and friends houses it became routine for people to want to get their photo taken with it, and this phenomenon wasn’t even restricted to Chinese people.

So while a successful official launch for the iPad in China was easy to predict, no one was sure what the rate of adoption would be. Turns out, the iPad is a much more anticipated device than the iPhone was. On opening day in Beijing there was a crowd of hundreds with the most enthusiastic fans having waited for over 50 hours.

AppleInsider was at the iPad release in Beijing and collected quotes and pictures:

I came straight here from work on Tuesday to be first in line,” bookstore owner David Han told AppleInsider. “I could have bought an imported gray-market or pirated iPad, but I waited to buy the iPad directly from an Apple Retail Store.” Grinning happily, Han produced a wad of cash and fanned it for the media. “I won’t use a credit card! I’m proud to pay with Renminbi” Han said, admonishing his compatriots to do the same. Amid cheers from Apple retail employees and the crowd, Han later emerged with an iPad in each hand.

iPad release in China
The first purchaser proudly wore a "iBuy iPad No 1" t-shirt

iPad release in China

iPad release in China

Youtube Clip of the Release Day

Note: If you’re in Mainland China, you won’t be able to view the Youtube clip embedded below without a proxy. We at Chengdu Living use and recommend Freedur VPN:

A Final Question:

What do you think about the iPad in China? Will it be able to maintain the speed it’s gathered over the last few months or will time and new competitors slow it down?

31 thoughts on “Apple Unleashes iPad in China”

  1. I was really surprised to see the iPad take off so quickly. When I first saw it.. I don’t know, I didn’t expect it to happen this fast.

    • I think that’s a pretty common reaction. When it was first announced, two of the most popular reactions were “huge ipod touch who cares” and “lol ipad”

      It reminds me of when Apple released the first iPod, to which a huge number of people went “ANOTHER mp3 player? lame”. Everyone knows what happened next.

  2. i saw two guys reading books on the iPad yesterday in the Shanghai subway. When i am in the metro, EVERYBODY is playing with their phone and when i sneak a peak, it is usually books or news that they are reading …

      • Yes and no;

        3G actually works fine in China (on iPad) but the 3G models aren’t for sale here officially. So you can import a 3G model from HK or the US but you can’t buy it in China at the Apple Store. I’m not sure why they would do this but they have weird restrictions on wireless gadgets here. Like when the iPhone 3GS first came out in China it didn’t come with Wi-fi. It affected sales enough for them to reverse the decision and eventually release a fully-functional iPhone in China.

    • News and books – reading, in general – are what I use my iPad for more than anything else. There is no better device to do those things on (including books, when you factor in distribution and acquiring the content you want to read). Look at the top charts in the App Store for iPad though and you can see the Games dominate, so it’s a big platform for that also. Board games work especially great – chess, Scrabble, Risk, etc.

  3. Hey Charlie,

    Richard from over at Notes From Xi’an, we discussed a few topics over at the Hao Hao Report a while ago. Quick question though. I just fried my old powerbook recently, but we do have my girlfriends MacBook Pro in the house that we bought earlier this year, which I have now turned to. She says we don’t need another computer so powerful. As Sascha notes, she probably surfs most and reads, watches films etc with it, we quite fancy adding an iPad to the house, the question is does it cut it as the multi media tool it’s made out to be?

    Cheers and glad you guys are still going strong.

    • Hey,

      I think you’ll be really pleased with iPad as long as you don’t expect it to do everything a laptop can do. For what it does, it does it better than a laptop can. I also use a Macbook Pro and I prefer iPad for things like reading, browsing social networks, playing casual games etc. It’s really a powerful device, especially with multi-tasking that comes out in a few weeks. Hope this helps, thanks for visiting Richard-

      • Cheers Charlie,

        Actually it was the multi-tasking or lack of it that was holding me back. Is it coming out in the States with a multi-tasking ability soon, or here to?

        Thanks again, appreciate the tips.

        • Right, the lack of multi-tasking when iPad was released is what held a lot of people back. Fortunately they added it into the latest version of iOS (4.2) that’s scheduled for release in November, so it’s a free update that’ll add this functionality.

          I’ve been using the developer release of 4.2 for about a week now and it’s awesome. It works the same way as multi-tasking works on the iPhone 4 – double click the home button and a menu pops up showing all the apps that are running. Easy peasy.

          • Well, this is now an easier decision than I thought it was going to be. Cheers Charlie you’ve helped make the process much more simple. I gotta say I am now quite looking forward to getting hold of one of these things. I use an iTouch as well and there definitely is something more instinctive about these touch screen machines, a bigger screen- happy days.

  4. Ipad is not so useful in china than in other regions, i think. ‘Cause chinese applications are not so abundant, cant online book movies tickets, dinners etc. and u cant access to wifi everywhere.

    • That’s true, Chinese applications aren’t that abundant yet. I think that will change though now that the Chinese iPad market has a chance to grow with the device available here. Few application developers make products for the Chinese market because they figure:

      1 – the Chinese market is small, and
      2 – Chinese users all have jailbroken iPhones and iPads so you can’t sell anything easily

      I think both of these will change over the next few years though.

  5. I was surprised to see a lot of Apple Shops (Probably not all of them were authorized) selling the iPad already before the release. At Renminnan Street at the computer’mekka’ ive seen a lot and also in Beijing, Shanghai…

    • Yeah, shops that were selling iPad before last week aren’t authorized places I’m pretty sure. The ones they were selling were 水货 from overseas – so wi-fi and 3G are available although 3G models are officially not for sale in China. The price for shuihuo iPads is much higher though, now you can get the 16gb base model (行货) for 4,700 yuan which isn’t much more than what it costs in the US when you include tax. Not bad considering most Apple products have traditionally been much more expensive in China than in the US.

    • It’s shaping up to be a contender, but it’s still not quite as practical or full-featured (in terms of applications) as the iPhone or iPod Touch. Also the iPad isn’t as portable so it’s less handy for looking up words as you hear them or find them on the street and adding them to word lists, etc. iPhone and iPod Touch are really handy for that.

      iPad has some unique features though, like practicing writing could be made to work far better on a large screen than on a small one. Niche applications like this will take time to emerge though, currently we’re about 6 months into the iPad app store. For comparison, it wasn’t until a year or more had passed before the iPhone had really strong apps made for learning Chinese (Qingwen, KTDict, Pleco, etc).

  6. The ipad will be huge in China. Apple was brilliant in building in support for hand (or rather, finger) written chinese characters. My non-english reading dad basically took over my ipad because now he could google and youtube things in chinese, an insurmountable task on PC’s with pinyin/etc input. Basically, the ipad has opened the internet to him. Consider how fundamentally powerful that is.


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