Consumers on the Chinese mainland finally greeted the iPhone 5, Apple Inc's latest handset model, on Friday, three months after the US tech firm rolled it out worldwide.
However, fewer customers than anticipated may not have made the day a record-breaker for Apple.
Apple began selling the iPhone 5 at midnight Friday through its own stores, two telecom partners and mobile phone retailers, priced at no less than 5,288 yuan ($849).
The long queues, fights between scalpers and police maintaining order that were seen at the iPhone 4S launch sales in January did not materialize outside Apple's largest store in Beijing's Wangfujing shopping district, news portal netease.com reported.
Photos showed the same lonely sights in other stores in Beijing, partly due to heavy snow and to Apple's new sales policy that mainland consumers must place an order online before getting the phone.
The situation was better through other sales channels.
Suning, the country's largest home appliance retailer, told the Global Times Friday that more than 100,000 sets of iPhone 5 had been ordered since the company began pre-orders on November 5, including some 6,000 sets in Beijing.
Suning had sold more than 20,000 iPhone 5 sets by Friday noon, with 2,800 sets sold in Beijing, the company said. The firm sold 4,000 sets of iPhone 4S in Beijing in 16 hours on the first day of sales in January.
Another home appliance retailer Dazhong Electronics recorded 436 sales by noon in Beijing on Friday.
"The sales were quite good considering the bad weather in Beijing," Ding Tianxing, a manager at Dazhong's Beijing branch, told the Global Times Friday.
China Unicom, China's second largest telecom operator and Apple's first partner in the mainland from 2009, said Monday that it got 300,000 iPhone pre-sales since it started pre-orders on December 2.
China Telecom only began partnering with Apple in March and began pre-orders on the same day, but did not release its sales data.
However, unlike price markups seen by Apple's sellers for previous incarnations, a price war occurred on the first day of iPhone 5 sales.
China Telecom reduced the prices for the cheapest model of iPhone 5 by 200 yuan Friday, and D.Phone Group, a mobile phone retailer, offered a further cut of 90 yuan.
The iPhone 5 is unlikely to see the hot sales of the past, due to a lack of innovation at Apple, Ma Jihua, a telecom expert at Beijing Daojing Consultant Co, told the Global Times Friday.
"Its declining popularity was shown through large-scale promotions by Apple and its partners, which never happened in the past," Ma said.
Despite the price cut by China Telecom and D.Phone, the cheapest model of iPhone 5 is still priced at over $800, much higher than $650 in the US, promoting the business of grey iPhone sales in the mainland market. It is likely that many Chinese users will simply ask acquaintances to bring them back phones from overseas. A Chinese woman was tasered by police at an Apple store in the US Thursday because she violated the store's quota policy and insisted on buying more than two iPhone 5s, the Daily Mail reported.
Samsung's Galaxy S series as well as Chinese domestic brands have also begun posing greater threats to iPhone's position in the mainland.
Samsung led the mainland smartphone market in the third quarter of 2012, followed by Chinese brands Lenovo, Coolpad, ZTE and Huawei, with iPhone falling to sixth from the second in the first quarter, UK market research firm Canalys said earlier November.