Chinese buyers queuing up last fall for the iPhone 6
By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
October 17, 2014

The Wall Street Journal‘s Chun Han Wong found the scene Friday morning outside the Apple Store in Beijing’s upscale Sanlitun district “decidedly low-key.” It was a stark contrast, he wrote, to the near riot that greeted the launch of the iPhone 4S in January 2012.

Only a handful of customers had showed up an hour before the store opened, outnumbered by the two-dozen private-security guards hired for the occasion.”

Too bad nobody tipped off the Journal’s Beijing bureau that the real action Friday was somewhere else — at the outlets of China’s three major mobile carriers, which began selling the new iPhones at midnight.

The Apple stores in China are selling unlocked phones and charging the full unsubsidized price. To get discounts and subsidies, Chinese customers had to buy direct from the carriers or from one of Apple’s 6,700 authorized resellers.

If Wong had been to one of those stores, he might have come across scenes like these:

More where those came from.

The lines in China were subdued thanks to an iPhone pre-order policy put in place after the 2012 launch, but they weren’t that subdued.

UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal piece was widely picked up and taken as evidence that iPhone sales in China were a disappointment. But nobody took it quite as far as The Register’s Jasper Hamill:

iPhone 6 shunned by fanbois in Apple’s GREAT FAIL of CHINA
Just 100 Beijing fanbois queue to pick up new mobe
The belated Chinese launch of the iPhone 6 appears to have been a total flop after just 100 people queued outside a flagship store to buy the new mobe…”

That’s how Apple memes get started.

See also: iPhone 6 blowout: Chinese pre-orders put at 20 million plus

Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter at @philiped. Read his Apple (AAPL) coverage at fortune.com/ped or subscribe via his RSS feed.

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