iPhone 5 opening weekend: 5m sold, factory workers riot

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Apple announced that it sold five-million iPhone 5s on its opening weekend in retail stores, signalling its most successful iPhone launch ever. The announcement was tainted however by news that workers in one of the Chinese factories building the device had rioted, leaving 40 injured.

Demand for the thinner, slightly taller new device was so great that some orders have been pushed back a couple of weeks.

“Demand for iPhone 5 has been incredible and we are working hard to get an iPhone 5 into the hands of every customer who wants one as quickly as possible,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “While we have sold out of our initial supply, stores continue to receive iPhone 5 shipments regularly and customers can continue to order online and receive an estimated delivery date. We appreciate everyone’s patience and are working hard to build enough iPhone 5s for everyone.”

The extra push for new devices apparently saw Foxconn employees in the factory responsible for building the device pushed to breaking point.

According to the Daily Mail, a riot involving around 2 000 workers broke out after a security guard beat up a worker.

Around 5 000 police officers were called in to quell the uprising which ended with 40 people injured and a number arrested.

In a statement, Foxconn said that the incident “does not appear to have been work-related”. “A personal dispute between several employees escalated into an incident involving some 2 000 workers at approximately 11pm last night in a privately managed dormitory,” it said.

Conditions in such dormitories, as well as in the Foxconn factories making the iPhone 5 were recently described by an undercover Chinese reporter as nightmarish:

The first night sleeping at Foxconn dormitory is a nightmare. The whole dormitory smells like garbage when I walked in. It’s a mixed of overnight garbage smell plus dirty sweat and foam smell. Outside every room was fully piled up with uncleared trash. When I opened my wardrobe, lots of cockroaches crawl out from inside and the bedsheets that are being distributed to every new workers are full of dirts and ashes.

This is the second case of worker unrest in the last six months, after front-line workers went on strike in March.

Apple meanwhile also reported that some 100-million devices had upgraded to iOS6, a considerable jump from the 25-million who had upgraded to iOS 5 in the same time frame following the launch of the iPhone 4S.

iPhone 5 will be available on September 28 in Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

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