Monday, June 11, 2012

Insights and Headaches for Apple: The iPncne in China

As I mentioned before, unauthorized Apple stores are common in many regions of China. At the moment it appears that Apple will only respond to "fake Apple Stores" that take extreme measures to imitate a genuine Apple Store. A related area of concern for companies such as Apple is protecting not how their trademarks are used in stores but on products being sold.

I previously shared an example of a Chinese mobile phone that appeared to inappropriately use some of Apple's trademarks. I will call it the "Think Different Phone". It certainly is not alone in China. For another example, here is a phone I saw for sale in Yinchuan, Ningxia:

iPncne (or fake iPhone) in Yinchuan, China

It would be hard to believe that the resemblance of the apple logo and the iPncne name to Apple's trademarks is accidental. In the post about the Think Different Phone I discussed how despite their possible trademark infringements such phones can provide insights about features possibly desired in the local market. As an example, similar to the Think Different Phone the iPncne has a dedicated button for QQ -- a popular social networking service in China:

iPncne (or fake iPhone) in Yinchuan, China

But what I believe can be an even more important feature is found inside the phone:

battery compartment and SIM card holder for iPncne (or fake iPhone) in Yinchuan, China

The capability of this iPncne to hold dual SIM cards would matter to many Chinese mobile phone users. For an example of why, see my post from last year "Mobile Phones in China: Local Rates, Fashion, and Fakes".

Even for the many Chinese-designed phones not noticeably violating any trademarks, "localizations" such as the above can indicate features desired not only in China but elsewhere as well. But regardless of any insights the iPncne may provide, Apple is probably still concerned about protecting its trademarks. Even if the apple logo and iPncne name do not cross the line for Apple, I think there is something on the back of the phone that would be hard for them to accept:

back of iPncne (or fake iPhone) in Yinchuan, China

In small print below the iPncne name is written:
Designed by Apple in California Assembled in China
At least the second half of the line seems true. I have not contacted Apple for comment about the first half. I suspect their private comments would be much more interesting.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Scenes of China: Buildings in Xining, Qinghai

A week ago, I shared some scenes from the regions around Qinghai Lake in Northwest China. For a contrast, today I will share a few scenes including larger buildings in the capital of Qinghai province -- Xining. They are are all from Xining's urban districts and provide a taste of the development Xining has experienced, which is more than I had expected. Most of the buildings do not stand out in any way from buildings I have seen in many other cities in China. Even if urban development is not your thing, Xinghai is still special in that beautiful natural scenery is never too far away.

People's Park in Xining, Qinghai
Lake at People's Park

concrete sports field and apartment buildings in Xining, Qinghai
Concrete sports field

Huangshui River in Xining, Qinghai
Huangshui River

road intersection in Xining, Qinghai
Intersection of Huayuan Street and Dongguan Street

Nanchuan River in Xining, Qinghai
Nanchuan River

State Grid building in Xining, Qinghai
State Grid building

Nanchuan River in Xining, Qinghai
Umbrellas are for people enjoying tea, beer, and snacks next to the Nanchuan River

Culture Park in Xining, Qinghai
Culture Park

Shengli Road in Xining, Qinghai
Shengli Road

Demolished homes with new buildings in the background in Xining, Qinghai

Friday, June 8, 2012

Dell Store (and Uniforms) in Yinchuan, China

Yesterday, I shared some examples of unauthorized Apple resellers in Yinchuan, Ningxia. Although I have posted several times about Apple, it is not my intent to express any particular favoritism for the brand.

Partly in that spirit, I will share a few photos of a store selling Dell products that I also saw in Yinchuan:

Dell computer store in Yinchuan, China

Although it is very common to see Dell computers for sale in China, this store caught my eye because it is not so common to see an independent store dedicated to only Dell products. In my experience, Dell resellers in China are typically located in computer shopping centers with numerous other resellers nearby.

The store also caught my attention because of its outdoor display where two employees were showcasing computers:

outdoor display at Dell computer store in Yinchuan, China

outdoor display at Dell computer store in Yinchuan, China

I spoke to the owner and she told me the store has been open for 8 years. Furthermore, it had recently undergone renovations, and they had just reopened.

Similar to Apple, Dell provides an online list of authorized retailers in China. However, Dell has many more stores listed. For example, Apple currently lists 1 reseller in Yinchuan. Dell lists 30. At first glance, the above store does not appear to be on the list. But several of the provided addresses are vague, so I am not entirely sure whether it is not included. And I am not familiar with Dell's policies regarding how stores can use the Dell symbols and name, so I have no comment as to whether anything may be amiss.

Finally, I must say there was another detail in the store that caught my attention -- the uniforms for some of the female employees:

employees in uniforms at Dell store in Yinchuan, China

I have no idea if those uniforms are Dell standard issue inside or outside of China. If not, do you think they could someday become an example of creative design in China influencing global practices?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

More "Fake" Apple Stores In China: Does Apple Care?

[UPDATE at end]

According to recent reports, new genuine Apple Stores will open in the Chinese cities of Shenzhen and Chengdu. These will be the first Apple Stores outside of Beijing and Shanghai in mainland China. Shenzhen is an intriguing location for a new store since its border has been a significant entry point for Apple products smuggled into mainland China from Hong Kong due to differences in prices and availability.

In addition to several Apple Stores in China, there are numerous authorized resellers of Apple products. But there are many more unauthorized resellers, examples of which I shared here and here. I also shared an example here of an unauthorized reseller with a website nearly identical to Apple's. All of those examples came from Southeast China, so I will now share examples of unauthorized stores in the northwestern city of Yinchuan in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region (Ningxia is similar in stature to a Chinese province). In addition to serving as evidence that unauthorized resellers are not limited to a specific region of China, they provide an opportunity to discuss some of the concerns Apple may have about such stores.

Like before, I did not deliberately seek out any of these stores. I opportunistically took the photographs on several occasions while I walked around Yinchuan's central Xingqing District. Here are just a few of the stores I saw selling Apple products:

unauthorized Apple store in Yinchuan, China

unauthorized Apple store in Yinchuan, China

unauthorized Apple store in Yinchuan, China

unauthorized Apple store in Yinchuan, China

unauthorized Apple store in Yinchuan, China

In all of the examples above an Apple logo is prominently displayed in the location above the main entrance where one could expect a store's name, even in China.

Apple's online list of authorized resellers as of today shows only one authorized reseller in all of Yinchuan or anywhere else in Ningxia (note: an employee at the Apple Store in Hong Kong insisted to me that this list is regularly refreshed and reliable). Based on the store's address it is not any of the stores displayed above or later in this post. However, these stores not being listed as authorized is in itself not a problem since it is reportedly not illegal to resell genuine Apple merchandise in China.

Regardless, in a country with so many fake products some consumers may be especially motivated to buy Apple products from stores reviewed and authorized by Apple. That is what makes these other unauthorized stores in Yinchuan even more intriguing:

store appearing to claim it is an authorized apple reseller in Yinchuan, China

store appearing to claim it is an authorized apple reseller in Yinchuan, China

store appearing to claim it is an authorized apple reseller in Yinchuan, China

Although Apple likely does not want stores stating they are authorized resellers when they are not, Apple is likely more concerned about protecting the Apple Store identity. The famous fake Apple Store store in Kunming received attention from Apple not because it was unauthorized, but because of the extreme measures it took to appear as a genuine Apple Store. In short, whether Apple pursues any action against a store in China is probably related to the likelihood a consumer will incorrectly believe they are shopping at a store operated by Apple. A quick estimation based on what I have seen suggests there are thousands of unauthorized Apple resellers in China, many of which may be misusing Apple's trademarks to a variety of degrees. If Apple wished to pursue every potential case it could have a huge challenge ahead of itself. But at the moment I see no indications that Apple will take any significant action unless a store goes to more extreme lengths to imitate a real Apple Store. In that case, Apple has taken a more pragmatic approach and the situation is far more manageable.

The famous store in Kunming crossed several significant lines which made it worthy of Apple's attention. For example, the staff believed they worked for Apple and wore shirts identical to those worn by Apple Store employees. The second factor is why these two stores in Yinchuan particularly caught my attention:

unauthorized Apple store with employees wearing Apple shirts in Yinchuan, China

unauthorized Apple store with employees wearing Apple shirts in Yinchuan, China

In both stores, employees were wearing shirts that appeared to be similar, if not identical, to the Apple Store shirts.

employees wearing Apple shirts at an unauthorized Apple reseller in Yinchuan, Ningxia

When I spoke with two of the employees in the second store, I asked them if the store was an "Apple Store". One quickly said it was. Then the second jumped in and said it was not. She explained that their products were genuine and from an official Apple Store in Beijing. She did not believe she worked for Apple. At no point did the employee appear to evade any of my questions, and I never had the impression she was concerned anything might be amiss.

So, are any of the above stores enough to get Apple's attention? All I can say is that in most ways they are not highly unusual in comparison to many other unauthorized stores I have seen. They also did not go to the same extremes as the store in Kunming. Nonetheless, I suspect those Apple Store shirts could cause some feathers to be ruffled at Apple.

I could now go on and on and share examples of stores in other cities in China that to varying degrees may be infringing on the identity of genuine Apple Stores.

unauthorized Apple store in Lanzhou, China
Unauthorized store in Lanzhou, Gansu province

unauthorized Apple store in Xining, China
Unauthorized store in Xining, Qinghai province

But I shall refrain. I think I have already sufficiently made my point. Again, there are many unauthorized stores across China and it does not appear that Kunming or Southeast China is special in this regards. But based on my experiences, the famous store in Kunming remains a special example.

Finally, I want to give credit where credit is due in Yinchuan, namely this business:

authorized apple service provider in Yinchuan, China

Despite the English mispelling, this Apple Authorized Service Provider is indeed listed in Apple's online locator. Consistent with my observations of what was for sale in Yinchuan's unauthorized stores, it only offers services for iPads, iPhones, and iPods -- no service for Macs. So, Yichuanese can rest assured they have a convenient and authorized option for servicing some of the Apple products they may buy, whether at Yinchuan's single authorized reseller, Yichuan's unauthorized resellers, or elsewhere.

UPDATE: Now tired of seeing "fake" stores? Then maybe the Chinese mobile phone with an apple logo in this post will interest you: "Insights and Headaches for Apple: The iPncne in China".

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A Man Wearing a Hat in Xining, Qinghai

I am in the middle of writing three different posts but none are yet ready. So I will try something I had been pondering for such days and share a single photo that caught my eye.


The above scene is from an area in Xining with a set of immense shopping centers that I hope to describe in a later post. On the side, I have recently noticed a number of places selling hats similar to what the man is wearing. In several cases, I noticed that the black band has "I Love Italy" printed on it.

I have no explanation, but maybe it can bring some joy to any Italian readers.

That is all. More soon.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Thirty-fifth Day of May in Xining, China

As I walked around Xining, Qinghai province, on this thirty-fifth day of May, I noticed that at these various shopping areas:

vegetable market in Xining, China
Vegetable market

street market in Xining, China
Street market

underground shopping center in Xining, China
Underground shopping center

Life seemed to be going on as usual. But when I looked upon Xining's peaceful Central Square:

Central Square in Xining, China

And later in one of Xining's major shopping districts saw police, one openly holding a large gun:

Police van and policeman holding a large gun in Xining, China

I thought of some recently shared photos from 23 years ago of soldiers in Beijing. Later, I pondered China's curious stock market numbers and the various extensions of censorship in China on this day.

For now, I will simply share a photo of these candles I saw several months ago at a temple in Zhuhai's Bailian Dong Park:

lotus shaped candles in a temple in Zhuhai, China

Regardless of who is to blame and why such a terrible event occurred, they remind me of the lights that went out 23 years ago.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Scenes from Qinghai Lake and Environs

Previously I shared some photos of road scenes from my trip on Friday. Now I will share some of what I saw off the road that day. Early in the morning I met 5 Chinese college students who would be joining me and our driver. Our trip lasted until the evening and we explored Qinghai Lake, China's largest lake, and some of the areas around it. The driver chose the route, and I am happy to say he made some excellent choices. I am not sure I have ever seen such diverse scenery in a single day.

As seen in the photos, much Tibetan culture can be found in Qinghai. Although foreigners require a special permit and must be part of a tour group to even have a chance of entering Tibet (which is not always possible), no such restrictions exist in Qinghai -- at least for the regions I have visited so far.

In the order I experienced them, here are some scenes I will not soon forget:

yaks in Qinghai, China
Since yaks apparently prefer to avoid humans, this was as close as I could get.

view from Laji Mountain in Qinghai, China
The view from Laji Mountain at 3820 meters (12,500 feet) above sea level.

Tibetan prayer flags in Qinghai, China
Tibetan prayer flags on Laji Mountain

horse near Qinghai lake
Horse near Qinghai Lake

Tibetan woman and boy in Qinghai, China
Tibetan woman and boy

Tibetan tents in Qinghai, China
Tibetan woman and boy walking to some tents.

Tibetan prayer flags and rock piles at Qinghai Lake
Tibetan prayer flags and rock piles at Qinghai Lake

Tibetan prayer flags at Qinghai lake

woman making tsampa in Qinghai, China
Woman making a traditional Tibetan dish made from barley -- tsampa

young woman sitting amongst flowers and a young man riding a horse near Qinghai Lake
Two of my co-travelers that day -- one posing for a photo with the flowers and the other taking a short ride

sand dunes and snowcapped mountains near Qinghai Lake
In the distance are snowcapped mountains, but yet again I am surround by sand dunes.
Not too far behind me is Qinghai Lake.