Apple Inc. (AAPL) in China: How Did the iPhone 5 Launch Stack Up?

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) launched the newest iteration of the iPhone in China today, which is available through China Unicom Limited (NYSE:CHU) and China Telecom Corporation Limited (NYSE:CHA), the country’s second and third largest telecom carriers.

Earlier this week, we mentioned that at least 300,000 China Unicom customers had already preordered the iPhone 5, “with the greatest demand coming from the cities of Beijing and Shanghai, in addition to the Guangdong and Shandong provinces.” This is roughly 100,000 more preorders than the carrier received for the iPhone 4 in 2010. China Telecom, meanwhile, didn’t share its aggregate preorder statistics.

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)

When China’s seven official Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) stores, various resellers, China Telecom and China Unicom outlets opened their stores this morning, however, there was little fanfare that had made these events such a spectacle in years past.

According to The Wall Street Journal, at Apple’s Beijing outlet, “8 am on Friday, when the store opened to hurrahs from employees, only two consumers stood inside a cordon set up by Apple.”

A regional news site did report a strong turnout at a major China Telecom store in Shanghai, indicating that hundreds of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) enthusiasts were “waiting in the rainy winter night” for the device, so it’s difficult to determine exactly how successful the launch was.

Interestingly, counting the number of customers seen at the country’s physical outlets may be a less effective way of measuring iPhone 5 sales than in years past, as The Wall Street Journal reports (link above). Aside from the weather, which was a mixture of rain and snow in many locations, Apple is now “requiring customers to apply online a day before to buy new devices,” and “those selected are given a time window” to pick up their order.

It’s possible that this system – which sends an electronic notification to the buyer – may have spread out the pick-up process, which in turn, could have cut down on the number of customers forced to stand in line waiting for their respective Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) store or reseller to open.

While we can’t draw any conclusions about weekend sales just yet, Analysys International forecasts that Chinese “smartphone sales will reach 130 million units this year and 165 million next year, up from 81 million units in 2011” according to this article, meaning that Apple could grab a bigger piece of the ‘expanding pie,’ so to speak.

At the end of the day, China accounts for around 15% of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s total revenues, and it’s quite possible that this percentage could jump by this time next year. Let us know your thoughts/predictions in the comments section below.