Consumers in the United States can finally get the hands of the new iPhone 6 devices, and there is no doubt that Apple stores across the country will be throbbing with enthusiastic consumers. But not every nation on the planet is quite so fortunate. With the iPhone 6 debuting Friday in the US, Hong Kong, Japan and Australia, there are plenty of Apple fans who are needing to exercise a little patience before experiencing the iPhone 6 for the first time.
Chinese consumers forced to wait
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Unless they live in China. The East Asian marketplace is considered a goldmine for import devices, and Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) certainly benefit from this to some extent, given the hype and buzz that this creates at street level.
Chinese consumers will have to wait some time for the release of the iPhone 6 in China, unless they’re willing to shell out for one of these imported devices. In Beijing, the 16 GB iPhone 6 is currently retailing for around 8,000 yuan ($1,303); this is effectively double the price on Apple’s Hong Kong website.
While the black market of imported iPhone devices thrives in the world’s second largest economy, Chinese consumers may have to wait until 2015 to purchase their iPhone 6 unless they are able to acquire an import. While these devices are certainly prohibitively expensive, there is no shortage of them, even in this nation of well over 1 billion people. The research agency Counterpoint Research has estimated that as many as 5 million units may be smuggled into China before it is possible for consumers to purchase officially from Apple.
iPhone 6 halted by red tape
According to reports emanating from China, the delay in releasing the iPhone 6 in the most populace East Asian nation is centred around the fact that the new iPhone handsets have thus far passed just two of three regulatory steps. Western media reporting from the streets of China, paint an astounding picture of Chinese consumers thronging around outside Apple stores with signs desperately requesting iPhone 6 smartphones.
With no stock of the iPhone 6 likely to enter China during the calendar year, the inflated prices that fans of the iPhone series are willing to stump up may head higher yet. It is already anticipated that iPhones with the lowest storage denomination could be changing hands for as much as HK$10,000 ($1,290). And this is despite the fact that anyone buying or selling a device is breaking at least two Chinese laws, namely the requirements to pay heavy import duties, and the requirement of the Chinese government to only use officially sanctioned mobile devices.
The situation contrasts from the previous iPhone release, which was made available in China on the same day as its global debut. Evidently, Apple has been prevented from implementing a similar policy on this occasion, whatever its desires may have been to synchronize worldwide release of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.
Aside from regular iPhone 6 units, Asian consumers also have a taste for luxury goods too. In Hong Kong’s Wan Chai district, vendors offer the gold iPhone 6 Plus for between HK$18,000 and HK$28,000 ($3,600). This opulent device is retailing for more than double the price of its more regular cousin, with the everyday iPhone 6 Plus now currently selling for around HK$12,000 in the former British colony.
The mania and huge desire for Apple products in the Chinese market in particular has led to a massive underground culture of both organised sellers and private individuals attempting to profit from consumer desire. Many of the growing middle-class in China are snapping up iPhone devices with the intention of selling them on to people who simply cannot wait for the product to be officially released.
All good for Apple
While Apple certainly won’t officially welcome such conduct, and may indeed resent the fact that it will detract from its official sales in China, the extent to which people are willing to go to get their hands on an iPhone hardly represents bad news for the consumer electronics giant. While Samsung has been particularly successful in the Korean marketplace, it is evident that Apple products still carry a certain cachet, even in countries with which it is not culturally associated.
Meanwhile, Apple awaits sales figures of its officially released iPhone 6 devices in the Western world as an indicator of the handsets’ success.