Tim Cook opens Asia's biggest Apple Store

Zhu Shenshen
The Apple CEO opened the doors to welcome visitors to the new flagship store in Shanghai, with reports suggesting the company faces stiff competition and challenges in China.
Zhu Shenshen

Shot by Chen Mengze.

Apple's chief executive Tim Cook and Deirdre O'Brien, Apple's senior vice president of retail, welcome the first visitors to the new Jing'an store.

Tim Cook opens Asia's biggest Apple Store
Sun Minjie / SHINE

People waited outside Apple Jing'an on Thursday.

Tim Cook opens Asia's biggest Apple Store
Hu Jun / SHINE

The moment when Apple Jing'an opens its doors at 7pm on Thursday.

People flocked to the Jing'an Temple area in Shanghai for the opening of Asia's biggest Apple Store on Thursday night, and to see Apple's chief executive Tim Cook.

Cook, who arrived in Shanghai on Wednesday, opened the doors at 7pm to welcome visitors along with Deirdre O'Brien, Apple's senior vice president of retail.

Cook's appearance drew applause and cheers from the crowd, some of whom had been queuing outside since Wednesday evening.

No discounts or special prices were on offer on opening day but the first batch of visitors received a gift package that included a badge, a sticker and a canvas bag.

The Apple Store and the gift packages featured a special logo with the white magnolia, the flower of Shanghai, in celebration of the city's innovation and pioneering spirit, Apple said previously.

The new store is Apple's biggest in Asia. Shanghai now has eight Apple Stores, compared to six in Hong Kong and five in Beijing. New York city has seven.

The store fits with Shanghai's strategy to encourage consumption, and a recent commercial zone upgrade in the Jing'an Temple region.

Since its first store in Shanghai – Apple Pudong – opened in July 2010, more than 163 million people have visited Apple's seven retail locations in the city.

Hustle and bustle of city crowd

Most of those who gathered outside the Apple Store were there to see Cook and explore a store described on social media "top-of-the-line." Anyone arriving after 4pm were not allowed to join the queue because of capacity restrictions.

Tim Cook opens Asia's biggest Apple Store
Sun Minjie / SHINE

People gathered outside the new Apple Store.

"I was told it was full and not allowed to enter the queue. But I choose to stay nearby to see Cook, even far away," said Li Jun, an Apple fan who has "the whole family of Apple products" – iPhone, iPad and Mac.

Some came early for the limited magnolia-themed gifts.

A Jing'an store gift package was sold at about 300 yuan (US$41.6) on China's auction website Xianyu. It is thought there were around 1,500 free packages available.

Some people in the queue were wearing Apple Vision Pro headsets, which are not yet officially available in the domestic market. This caused some misunderstanding as some visitors were there to try out the AR device for themselves.

"Where are the (AR) glasses? " some visitors asked staff, only to get a disappointing answer.

Hundreds of people also gathered outside Jing'an Temple and police were on hand to maintain order.

Tim Cook opens Asia's biggest Apple Store
Sun Minjie / SHINE

Cook waved to visitors at the new Apple Store.

Apple faces stiff competition in China

The new Apple Store, Cook's visit and newly announced investments in China – the "China charm offensive" – came as worries grow around Apple's market share in the world's second-largest economy.

China's smartphone market is undergoing rapid changes with Apple sales declining 24 percent while Huawei gained significant growth in the first six weeks of 2024, according to researcher Counterpoint.

Apple posted a revenue decline of 13 percent in China in the latest quarter last month, an indication that the world's top smartphone vendor still faces challenges in its third biggest market.

Apple's AI service Siri "seems ridiculous now" and its AI capabilities, though with huge potential, are lagging behind many Android phones, Zhou Hongyi, 360 Technology's chairman and an AI observer, said on Thursday in Beijing.

Asked about AI in Shanghai, Cook promised to announce AI upgrades later this year.

Besides attending the opening ceremony, Cook met with leaders of some Chinese firms, including a gaming company and supply chain partners such as BYD, China's biggest electric car maker.

Tim Cook opens Asia's biggest Apple Store
Ti Gong

Cook talks with the heads of some Chinese firms.

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