Letter from Taiwan
It took a while -- three months, in fact -- for the iPhone 4 to arrive in Taiwan after first hitting the streets and stores in the UK, Japan, France, Germany and the USA in June. But lo and behold, Taipei punters could be seen lining up all day and night in mid-September to get their hands on the fancy new Apple "so-ji" (literally, "hand phone" in Mandarin).
One lucky lad waited seven hours to be the first person on the island to get the shiny new gadget at a marketing/sales event that began at midnight. When asked by reporters if he was worried about reports of a defect in the iPhone 4's antenna design that could affect reception, he said he was not worried at all since the large number of base stations in Taiwan ensures good connections.
To create a consumer frenzy islandwide, several telecons carriers here placed fullpage newspaper adverts -- on the entire front page! -- in the four national dailies.
Wei-chun Hsu, 34, said he hoped future iPhone models could be made available here earlier when they are introduced worldwide, instead of having to wait three months. While Taiwan is at the forefront of much of the technology that gadgetheads crave, local punters often have to wait what seems like ages for the damned products to arrive.
Meanwhile, across the 100-mile Taiwan Strait in communist-controlled China, even larger crowds turned out the same week for the debut of Apple's iPad.
One Beijinger camped out for 60 hours to bag the first iPad in his sales area. The 35-year-old bookstore manager wore a T-shirt reading -- in English -- "I buy iPad No. 1".
Before the iPad made its official debut in China, of course, the market had already been flooded by cheaper knockoffs and iPad "clones", according to news reports. One Chinese humorist told a reporter that while he respected "copyrights and all that", he especially believed in "the right to copy."