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iPhone 5 to hit China’s grey market for US$1 500

Combining Tao Te Ching levels of “WTF” and “Meh, I’m not really surprised,” China’s finest smugglers are preparing to sell the newly-unveiled iPhone 5 for a cool 10 000 RMB — that’s US$1 500, a more than 100% markup over its Hong Kong price of HK$5 588 (4 560 RMB). The fast-working grey importers say they’ll be ready to start selling the iPhone 5 on 21 September, its initial global launch date, thanks to smuggling in the phone from Hong Kong.

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Thereafter, plenty of other nearby Asian launch locations — such as Singapore — will keep the flow of grey imported stock high for hungry mainland Chinese buyers. The iPhone 5 has no set launch date for China via any official channel, and it’s normal for it to take two to three months to pass regulatory approval and hit shelves.

By which time, most early adopters will have already gotten theirs from the third-party vendors who get human gadget mules to haul sack-loads of iPhones across the Hong Kong-Shenzhen border, or in luggage from other countries.

A grey importer and seller told Techweb that stores in Shenzhen will get the device the same day as the Hong Kong launch, and some early buyers in Beijing might get it the same day if the express couriers are up to the task. He quoted a price of “not less than 10,000 RMB” ($1,500) for the initial batch. Only after a steady supply for a week or so will the price go down to something a bit more normal.

Scalpers often prove a problem at Chinese launches of major gadgets, and so Apple abolished the first-come, first-serve overnight queues for the new iPad in Hong Kong in March of this year, and will likely do the same this time round for the iPhone 5.

It’s not yet clear if that will scupper the gadget mules in their bid to source phones for the China-based sellers. If so, that grey-market price will remain high for quite a few weeks.

This article by Steven Millward originally appeared on Tech in Asia and is republished with its permission.