Eggs were thrown at the window of the Apple store in Beijing after the launch was cancelled due to fears over the size of the crowd.
Hundreds of customers – including migrant workers hired by middlemen in teams of 20 to 30 – waited overnight outside the store in a shopping mall in the Sanlitun district.
Such middlemen buy up iPhones or smuggle them from abroad for resale substantially above their market price.
When the store failed to open as scheduled at 7am, the crowd erupted in anger. Some pelted the store with eggs and shouted at staff through the windows.
One employee with a megaphone announced the sale had been cancelled. Police ordered the crowd to leave and sealed off the area.
A sign was posted in the window saying the iPhone 4S was out of stock.
“We were unable to open our store at Sanlitun due to the large crowd, and, to ensure the safety of our customers and employees, iPhone will not be available in our retail stores in Beijing and Shanghai for the time being,” an Apple spokeswoman said.
The iPhone 4S quickly sold out at other Apple stores in China, Ms Wu said, adding that the phone would still be sold in China through its online store, its local carrier, China Unicom, and authorised re-sellers.
Apple’s China stores are routinely mobbed for the release of new products. The company has its own stores only in Beijing and Shanghai, with a handful of authorised retailers in other cities, so middlemen who buy iPhones and re-sell them in other areas can make big profits.