A few hundreds people gathered amid tight security outside Hong Kong’s Apple Store yesterday as they awaited their chance to buy the new iPhone 5. Several hundred Apple fans have queued up early in Hong Kong to collect their latest Apple’s gadget. The atmosphere was orderly with less exhilaration. More than a dozen security guards were on hand, and the store had pre-empted the possibility of an overly large crowd forming by making the iPhone 5 available only to people who had made online reservations, with a limit of two per person. But that didn’t stop other Hong Kong residents and grey market traders from scrambling to get the latest iPhone 5 …
The Hong Kong’s flagship Apple store, which is located inside a shopping mall in the International Finance Center building, has set up an airport check-in style waiting area for people in front of the entrance, but shoppers weren’t allowed to enter that area until a few minutes before the shop’s doors opened. The crowd stood patiently alongside the wall across from the entrance, with the security staff hovering nearby, and local police were on the spot too. Most of the noise and fanfare came from the blue shirts employees, all clad in, who began chanting “iPhone 5! iPhone 5!” before the shop opened. The Apple store opened at 8am on time, security staff and store employees escorted the customer like kindergarten kids, one by one, into the store.
Due to the different time zone, Hong Kong started selling iPhone 5 earlier than other major countries. Usaully, eager buyers will form long lines outside Apple store, but at Hong Kong’s flagship Apple store saw comparatively shorter lines, as the new iPhones were reserved for those who had pre-ordered. In Hong Kong, buyers had to sign up online for the chance to pick up the device at a pre-arranged time. Apple has initiated its required reserve and pick up system for the launch and it will not be offering walk-in purchases for the new iPhone. If customer don’t receive an confirmation email, Apple will unable to reserve an iPhone for him, and the customer have to try again another time. Hong Kong didn’t participate in pre-orders last week, it only started on the day before the official launch.
Not everyone lining up outside Hong Kong’s Apple store was an enthusiast. Some individuals who were buying the iPhone 5 immediately resell it at a premium. A white-collar office lady was waiting to buy a black 16 gigabyte model for HK$5,588 (US$720), said she was getting one “for the cash”. She planned to immediately resell it, with the help of her boyfriend, to one of the numerous grey market retailers catering to mainland Chinese buyers. She was required to give her citizen identity card number when signing up for her iPhone on Apple’s website. The requirement prevents purchases by professional scalpers, who almost ‘destroyed’ the iPhone 4s launch last year. A 16GB iPhone 5 was selling for as much as HK$ 8,300 (US$1,070) in the grey market, as we have seen on the first day of iPhone 5 debut. A small scale of black market trade also took place just outside the Apple store.
The local second-hand telecommunication shop owners in Hong Kong said that they will pay about HK$8,000 to purchase the new iPhone 5 models from first-hand buyers and then resell them for between HK$8,500 to HK$12,000 each (US$1,095-1,547) to China customers, who have a reputation for scooping up high-end goods for self-superiority. The industry people predicted that the iPhone 5 sales in Hong Kong can reach 15,000 sets during the first few days. However, other local end-users, who preferred to stay on the sidelines, said the new iPhone 5’s design and features do not differ much from the iPhone 4, and it is much more expensive than previous models. They added they are not eager to switch their phone network plans to the faster 4G network because of iPhone 5, as it’s overall more expensive than the 3G plans.
The iPhone 5 went on sale yesterday in the U.S., Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and the U.K., with the rollout to continue to 22 additional countries next week. China is one of Apple’s fastest growing markets but a release date for the iPhone 5 there has not yet been set. Apple expects to be in 100 countries with the device by the end of the year. China, soon to become the biggest smartphone market in the world, will properly be in the list.
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