Apple’s early China iPhone launch hits smugglers

Apple have come up with a wizard wheeze to kill off iPhone smuggling in China.

By getting its new iPhone into the shops early in China, Apple is hoping to curb the need to sell a kidney for an expensive smartphone.

Every time there is an iPhone launch smugglers switch into action, buying loads of the toys in Hong Kong, where the gadgets have gone on sale months before and shipping them to the mainland.  The smuggled phones have a mark-up which is much higher.

Huang Kaidi, a shopkeeper in China’s southern city of Shenzhen, who has been selling iPhones smuggled from Hong Kong since the phone debuted in 2007 moaned to Reuters that soon mainlanders will be able to buy iPhones at the official stores soon and the trade will come to an end.

Well, nearly. 

Kaidi points out that, for some reason, Apple phones will still be cheaper in Hong Kong than on the mainland, so it’s expected there will still be a grey channel.  Even with a mark up, the smuggled iPhones will still be cheaper than the official channel.

Sales in China are fairly dismal in comparison to the rest of the world and are falling.  Part of the reason is that there are cheaper Chinese rivals and Samsung gear is still on the up.

Apple will be hoping that getting its phones into China will not only smash the grey channel, but also boost its sales in the country.