The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus went on sale last Friday, and we were pretty psyched. In fact, our very own Mr. Sato was so excited about the launch that he was, once again, first in line to get his hands on the latest version of Apple’s smartphone, and we’re sure others in the U.S. and Hong Kong felt just as happy with their new purchases.
Not everyone in the world got to be in on the fun, though. Apple is staggering the launch of the iPhone 6, and while Japan was lucky enough to be in the first batch of territories where it has become available, mainland China wasn’t. This has led to some extra cash for iPhone resellers, as well as customs officials who spent the weekend steadily confiscating smuggled iPhones.
Not only is China not included in the first wave of the iPhone 6 launch, it’s going to miss out on the second, as well. Media reports are saying that it won’t be until sometime after the start of 2015 that you can walk into a store in China and purchase an iPhone 6, and that’s much longer than some wealthy Chinese technocrats want to wait.
▼ Thus creating the opportunity to turn those gold iPhones into actual currency.
Basic economics tells us that high demand and low supply leads to big profits for sellers, and some entrepreneurs apparently started buying up new iPhones for resale as soon as stores in Japan and Hong Kong opened on September 19. According to Guangdong News, officials at the customs house with jurisdiction over Zhuhai City and Macao caught a women trying to smuggle 20 iPhone 6 units in a cookie container through the no-declaration line, making their discovery at around 12:30 p.m. on the very day the phone launched in Japan and Hong Kong.
By 4 p.m. of the same day, customs agents at the facility connecting Hong Kong and Shenzhen City in Guangdong Province had also intercepted six iPhone smugglers, confiscating a total of 12 iPhone 6 and 6 Plus units. One suspect admitted that he was being paid 200 yuan (US$33) to act as a smartphone mule, which is probably a drop in the ocean compared to what the phones would have actually sold for.
In the most dramatic incident, on September 20 Hong Kong police caught wind of a boat at Saikun Wharf loaded with smuggled electronics. When they showed up to search the vessel, its three-man crew escaped, but onboard police found a stock of 138 iPhone 6 and Plus models. Investigators suspect the ship’s intended destination was coastal Huizhou City, from where the goods could have been distributed to locations anywhere in mainland China.
Authorities are being particularly diligent due to the iPhone’s special customs status. The smartphone is one of 20 items designated by the Chinese government that must be declared, and a duty paid on, when brought into the country, even if it’s for personal use. Of course, since that cuts into the bottom line of resellers, many are keen to sidestep this extra expense, resulting in the sort of situations described above.
With wealthy buyers willing to pay large premiums to have an iPhone 6 in their hand right now, though, the tide isn’t likely to be stemmed anytime soon. Once the new models officially go on sale in China, that’ll be the end of the premium resellers can command. With the clock ticking on their seemingly easy way for to turn a tidy profit, Chinese customs agents should expect to be busy until then.