Buying an iPhone 4S in Hong Kong

The iPhone 4S recently launched in China to massive crowds and overwhelming demand. Eager punters looking to get hold of the device have caused such problems, and sometimes, riots at Apple retail stores, that Apple has had to implement a lottery system in Hong Kong. The incredible demand for the device, helped in no small part by a huge number of scalpers looking to get hold of multiple iPhone 4S units for sale on the grey market. Techwitty’s new website – lists all of their services and ventures.

The lottery system implemented by Apple means that Hong Kong residents have to enter a lottery between 9am and 12pm each morning in order to secure an appointment at the Apple Store to potentially purchase an iPhone 4S. The lottery requires that entrants supply the number printed on their government-issued ID, as well as being limited to two units per person. Having had the opportunity to travel to Hong Kong in the past few days, I decided to look at what the iPhone 4S market in Hong Kong is actually like, as well as conducting a small experiment. The results were weird.

The iPhone 4S is so popular among scalpers in Hong Kong because it is very cheap and is supplied carrier-unlocked. A 16GB iPhone 4S retails at $5,088 HKD (the official Apple Store price) which is equivalent to $656 USD or £415 GBP. As a non-resident of Hong Kong, I wasn’t eligible to enter the lottery but as this was just an experiment and I wasn’t interested in actually purchasing a device as I had one already, it made no difference. However, anecdotal reports from residents that I spoke to suggested that it was pretty difficult to obtain an appointment. So much so, that people were turning to authorized Apple resellers and chain electronics suppliers like Fortess and Broadway. This is where the issues start.

After visiting four Fortress stores, four Broadway stores, two Apple premium resellers and an independant electronics store, the results were interesting. I started with the Apple premium resellers first. One of the premium resellers was completely out of stock, one had just had a small delivery of 64GB iPhone 4S units and was quite happy to sell me one at the official Apple price of $6,688. Fair enough.

The Fortress stores were another experience. Fortress is one of the biggest electronics retailers in Hong Kong and has in excess of 70 retail outlets. During my visits, in two of the stores, I was told the iPhone 4S was out of stock. In the other two, I was told that they did have stock but that in order to gain permission to purchase an iPhone 4S for $5,088 HKD, I had to spend another $3000 HKD, or nearly $400 USD on another item.

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