Queueing for the Iphones

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Scuffles broke out as about 1,000 customers queued to get their hands on a cut-price iPhone 4 at the Apple store in Central’s International Finance Centre. Witnesses claimed those involved were South Asians and Indonesians paid by others to queue for the chance to buy up to five units per shopper and thus save thousands of dollars. But it was not just the idea of saving money by buying an iPhone 4 that spurred bargain hunters. Some had their eyes on good business. For in contrast to the price cut offered by the store and the Apple website, the price of an iPhone 4 model at some parallel import shops has gone up almost 15 percent since Tuesday – from HK$4,580 to HK$5,250 for a 16GB model.

At Apple’s IFC store, however, the 16GB was cut from HK$4,988 to HK$4,688 and the 32GB from HK$5,888 to HK$5,088. Each customer was allowed to buy up to five phones – with many immediately selling them in Mong Kok and making a tidy profit of up to HK$500 on each phone, or a total of HK$2,500. Customers have lined up at IFC every night since Apple started cutting prices on some models of the iPhone 4 after introducing the iPhone 4S last week. Apple moved about 300 iPhone 4 models within 90 minutes of opening at IFC yesterday, and the 32GB sold out within two hours. The word at day’s end was that the special offers had ended.

The iPhone 4S, expected to be released at the end of next month in Hong Kong, received a million pre-orders worldwide in the first 24 hours compared to 600,000 for the iPhone 4 in 2010. On prices going up at other stores, Chan Hiu-kit, who works at Carol’s Workshop in Mong Kok, said the number of people buying an iPhone 4 had increased by 20 percent in recent days. But his store has cut an order for 100 iPhone 4 units to 10 since the activity at Apple in IFC is likely to hit business.

Lau Chi-kong, the owner of another parallel import shop, G-World Mobile, said many mainland customers “see the design of iPhone 4 and the 4S as similar. So instead of waiting for an iPhone 4S they buy the iPhone 4 because of the lower price.” The queue that grew steadily since Tuesday night for yesterday’s 9am opening at the Apple store in IFC included locals and mainlanders as well as South Asians and Indonesians. Quarrels started at dawn and police moved in to mediate. But a spokesman said there was no record of scuffles.


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