Apple Launches Online Store for China

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Apple has launched a new online store for China in the company's latest move to reach users in the Chinese market.

Apple's new online store was launched on Wednesday and features free shipping for its products. The Chinese-language site allows users to buy a range of Apple products, including the iPhone 4, which sold out across stores in China last month. Third-party products are also available on the store.

The company has also started to offer its popular App Store in simplified Chinese Mandarin, the written language predominately used in mainland China.

Users, however, still have to pay for the apps using major American credit cards, Visa, MasterCard or American Express. Many Chinese users do not own such credits cards, and analysts have said this is a major stumbling block preventing Apple's App Store from becoming more popular in the country.

Although Apple is a dominant player in America, the company has a smaller presence in China. In terms of smartphones, Apple holds a 5.9 percent share of the market and is ranked fifth, according to Beijing-based research firm Analysys International. Handset manufacturer Nokia leads the market ahead of Samsung, Motorola and Sony Ericsson.

The company, however, has been steadily growing its brand in the country. Last month, the company opened two new Apple stores, one in Beijing, the other in Shanghai, bringing its total to four retail outlets in China. The launch of the iPhone 4 in September also made headlines when hundreds of customers lined up outside Apple stores in China. Earlier this month, Apple resorted to requiring customers to reserve an iPhone 4 on the company website in order to buy the device at one of its retail stores.

Apple's iPhone 4 has also been a target of scalpers, who often wait outside the company's retail stores to sell to potential customers. In response, Apple has been restricting consumers to purchasing only one iPhone 4 per day. The new online store also restricts customers to only buying one iPhone 4 per order they make.

Demand for the iPhone 4 in China is still going strong just a month after the device was launched in the country. They're so popular that on Wednesday morning, Apple stores in Beijing had already reached the reservation limit for the smartphones. At the same time, customers wanting to buy one through Apple's new online store will have to wait 1 or 2 weeks for delivery.

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