I was down in Hong Kong over the weekend, where the official retail price of Apple’s iPhone 4 is the cheapest in the world at HKD4988 ($643) for the basic model.
The catch though is that you can’t buy one from an official retailer. They are all sold out. If you want to order one from the website, it takes three to five weeks.
On the street, the prices are higher. Much higher. The basic model (16gb) is running to between HKD6500 and HKD7000 at the computer market in Wanchai.
"It is simple supply and demand. The Chinese mainlanders come here to buy their iPhones and they do not care what price they pay, so we are charging more," said one seller.
On the grey market, imported and unlocked iPhones have been selling at up to 12,000 yuan, almost three times the official Hong Kong price.
Meanwhile, back on the mainland, it is also impossible to buy an iPhone 4 from the Apple stores in Beijing and Shanghai. The stores have stopped selling them, less than two weeks after they were released, because scalpers are buying them up in bulk and flogging them on for a hefty mark-up.
When the phone went on sale in the Sanlitun Apple Store at the end of September, around 1,000 of them were sold within three hours. Scalpers were hiring people to stand in line for them and giving them 600 yuan to buy phones on their behalf.
Now, if you want an iPhone 4, you have to order it on the website, using your real name, and pick it up with an identity card. If China isn’t the world’s biggest iPhone market already, the only reason, it seems, is supply. Clearly Chinese consumers have the cash, and are very willing to be seduced by Apple’s shiny marketing.