No need to panic: Apple sold 2M iPhone 5 units in China this weekend

Sanlitun Apple Store, Beijing, China

Despite some┬áinvestor handwringing on Friday, Apple ended up having a record-breaking weekend in China. The company announced it sold 2 million iPhone 5s in China between Friday and Sunday, by far the biggest launch of one of Apple’s devices there.

After some analyst reports indicated on Friday that perhaps the iPhone 5 wouldn’t be as successful in China as the iPhone 4S, coupled with video footage of the opening day lines outside of Apple Stores on Friday — which were very small or non-existant — some investors panicked, and sent Apple’s stock tumbling. But it turned out that those early reports didn’t indicate lack of interest at all. Instead, Apple’s reservation system and its two carrier partners in the country, China Telecom and China Unicom, brought it a big first weekend.

Two million might sound low for a country with China’s population. It is less than half of the number of iPhone 5 units Apple sold in the U.S. plus eight other countries in its opening weekend in September, for instance. But besides Apple devices being much more expensive in China, 3G isn’t as widely available to subscribers, and the iPhone is not the first or even the second-most popular phone model in China. Rather, Apple is competing with entrenched local brands making inexpensive devices that run Android.

China is huge for Apple — CEO Tim Cook calls it one of Apple’s most important markets in the world. So even if the company has a long way to go to eat into Android device sales in the country, it should be encouraging for Apple (and its investors) that this launch of the iPhone in the country is larger than the last.

This post was updated at 6:39 a.m. PT to correct the number of countries where the iPhone 5’s September launch sales data came from.

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