iPad 3 makes a quiet landing in China

As promised, Apple today began selling its Retina iPad in China, having paved the way for the long-awaited launch with a recent $60 million trademark settlement with the struggling Chinese monitor vendor ProView.

News reports describe the launch as low-key, lacking the usual long lines and media frenzy like elsewhere. Apple is also seen taking additional steps to fight scalpers with an imposed three-hour window for reservations…

Melanie Lee filed this report for Reuters from Beijing:

The calm, orderly queues in Shanghai and Beijing came as a surprise to many Apple fans in China, who are used to standing overnight in snaking queues with scalpers to get their hands on the latest product.

The reservation system, as Cody previously explained, accepts requests daily from 9am to 12pm. Customers who pre-order the device are then given a specific time slot the next day at which they can come to the store, pay for the iPad and take it home.

Unfortunately, Apple places no restrictions on iPad sales through resellers so this scalpers-fighting measure remains limited to the online store and its six retail stores in the country (reportedly, two more Apple stores are coming to the major cities of Chengdu and Shenzhen).

Large-scale buyers pay scalpers to stand in the line and purchase devices in bulk for the purpose of reselling them on gray market, turning a substantial profit.

The practice hurts regular customers who due to early sellouts and limited availability often turn to grey market, of course, buying Apple devices at substantially higher prices.

Like in the United States and elsewhere, Apple in China also offers the iPad 2 at a reduced price of $399 for the 16GB WiFi version.

The 1.33 billion people market of China is now responsible for one-fifth of Apple’s total revenue and recently overtook the United States to become the world’s largest smartphone market. Apple’s smartphone market share in the country was pegged at 19 percent in May.

As the next iPhone looms, Apple has yet to cut a distribution agreement with China Mobile, the world’s biggest carrier. The deal is seen as crucial because Android now commands a staggering 70 percent of China’s smartphone market.

Was Apple right to launch the iPad in China with little fanfare?