It took little more than five hours for the first Apple iPhone
5s to go on sale in China after being smuggled across the border from
Hong Kong, but supplies were short and prices high.
In a crowded
building in the southern city of Shenzhen, a salesman stood by as
shoppers speaking various dialects scrambled to take photos of three
shiny new iPhones on display in his glass cabinet.
"The stock is
so limited that people are treating these iPhone 5s like gems," said
another cigarette-smoking salesman, surnamed Lin. "I pre-ordered online
and got quite a few people to do the same but I could only get a few."
Apple products are typically rolled out later in mainland China than in
Hong Kong, creating a thriving "grey market" for enterprising traders.
According to local media reports the iPhone 5 is expected go on sales in
China by year-end.
Vendors such as Lin also make a year-round
living exploiting the price difference between Apple and other popular
brands in Hong Kong, a free port just an hour from Shenzhen with
zero-duty on many electronics imports, and China.
At the iPhone
5's debut in Hong Kong earlier in the day, small groups of people
carrying rucksacks filled with cash waited outside the city's flagship
store hoping to snap up phones for resale.
For anyone able to
secure one, the new phone cost HK$5,588, or the equivalent of around
4,545 yuan, at the Hong Kong Apple store, while they were selling for
between 7,500 yuan and 9,000 yuan in the litter-strewn building in
Shenzhen where fake and smuggled phones are often hawked.
But trade was slow.
Friday afternoon, most vendors in the Shenzhen building still had their
stalls filled with the iPhone 4S, promising that the latest model would
arrive in the evening, when potential buyers were hoping to get a
Copyright Thomson Reuters 2012