Apple sells 2m iPhone 5s in first weekend of China sales

Apple says it’s shifted more than two million iPhone 5s in China during the phone’s first three days on sale.

The figures are better than expected, and could give the company a much-needed boost at a time when its US sales have levelled off. They may do something to counteract a 3.8 percent fall in the company’s share price on Friday.

“Customer response to iPhone 5 in China has been incredible, setting a new record with the best first weekend sales ever in China,” says CEO Tim Cook. “China is a very important market for us and customers there cannot wait to get their hands on Apple products.”

Most customers seem to have been buying their phones through carriers China Unicom and China Telecom, rather than at Apple stores. According to reports, as many as 300,000 customers reserved one of the phones through China Unicom.

By contrast, in a dramatic difference to the company’s previous launches, there was only a very short line at the company’s flagship Shanghai store when it opened on Friday. This, though, is likely caused by the company’s switch to a reservation system for this launch.

The phone’s price starts at 5,288 yuan, or around $850 – although some retailers were cutting prices by a little on Friday – meaning that many potential buyers with contacts abroad are likely to try and get it elsewhere.

Apple doesn’t yet have a deal with China’s biggest network operator, China Mobile, but is widely expected to strike one next year.