iPad mini at Beijing's Wangfujing store

Apple has repeatedly stressed that China is important to its bottom line, but it faces a dilemma given the premium associated with its name: when it can take weeks' worth of typical pay to buy an iOS device, let alone a Mac, many locals either have to save up or else turn to alternatives. The company may not have truly low-cost devices -- at least, not yet -- but it is offering an olive branch in the form of installment plans. Chinese who order from the online Apple Store with a China Merchants Bank credit card can now buy virtually anything priced between ¥300 and ¥30,000 ($48 to $4,821) using up to 24 payments spread over two years. Much like in other countries, there's higher additional fees the longer the installments carry on. The strategy only helps a certain segment of the population for whom the up-front cost is the lone obstacle; that may be enough in the near future, though, given that there's still significant demand.

[Image credit: Sina Tech]

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Apple online store lets Chinese buy on a two-year plan, puts iPads within reach