Resellers charge top dollar for early iPhone 4S

Updated: 2011-10-17 09:34

By Xu Wei (China Daily)

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BEIJING - Unauthorized Apple retailers are selling iPhone 4S units at stunning prices even though Apple did not name China as one of the first countries to launch the device.

On Sunday morning, a reseller put up a notice outside its shop in Zhongguancun E-plaza, a mall retailing computers and digital products, saying it had the first iPhone 4S units in Zhongguancun. The price for a 16G iPhone 4S was close to 10,000 yuan ($1,560), which is more than twice the official price in those countries first authorized to sell them.

So far Apple has launched the iPhone 4S in the United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Japan. The new phone went on sale there on Friday.

Apple has not announced a date for the release in China of its latest phone, which is one factor driving keen buyers in China to the grey market.

Unauthorized resellers have employed scalpers to wait in the long lines outside Apple stores in the chosen seven countries to get the iPhone 4S.

"We often pay scalpers $100 to get the phone sets at Apple stores in the United Kingdom or other European countries," said Zhang Tao, a staff member from the reseller, named Jingxinjiahe Digital Store.

"Then somebody will take the phones to Hong Kong and then to the mainland," he said. "We cover the flights and other expenses."

Zhang refused to provide other details of the shipping process. The products the reseller provided were unlocked and could be used immediately.

The reseller had seven iPhone 4S sets arrive on Saturday and two had already been sold on Sunday. "These are our old customers and we notified them as soon as these phones arrived," Zhang said.

Another reseller, who only gave his name as Qiao, said he was expecting a few phone sets to arrive on Sunday evening.

Qiao said the iPhone 4S sets coming by air from Canada to Beijing were unlocked. The price would be more than 9000 yuan. However, the online official price at Apple stores in Canada is $CAD649 ($650) before tax.

By Sunday, most vendors selling Apple products in Zhongguancun said they had iPhone 4S products available. However, few customers could be seen making enquiries, and not all Apple fans are in a rush to use the latest device.

Meanwhile, specialists at official Apple stores are warning customers of the risk of buying from unauthorized resellers.

"The biggest risk lies in the after-sales service," said a specialist, who refused to be identified, at an Apple store in Xidan, one of the shopping malls in Beijing. "We are not selling the product right now so we cannot provide after-sales service yet.

"But customers do need proof of purchase, like a receipt, and proof of customs approval to receive the service Apple provides," he added.

Luo Wangshu contributed to this story.