Apple tamed the thriving grey market for iPhones between Hong Kong and the mainland last year with the simultaneous launch of the iPhone 5 in 11 ‘tier one’ markets around the world.
The fact that this time around China is not in the first wave has spurred all sorts of speculation. The three mobile operators reportedly have taken hundreds of thousands of pre-orders for the new devices without a firm release date being given, so the omission is certainly a surprise.
And it could once again fuel the grey market from Hong Kong, where both the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are the cheapest in Asia (except for Japan).
Many have asked if China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has delayed certifying the new models (perhaps because the company fell out of favour with the government) or if Apple was late in submitting applications.
Reports surfaced in July that certain Apple products were blacklisted from the government’s procurement list. The Chinese government was quick to state that Apple was never on that list.
And with dozens of foreign tech firms currently under investigation by China’s antitrust authorities, some are wondering if Apple may be next to face a probe.
The local operators can’t be happy, given that last quarter sales of iPhones in China jumped 50 per cent after a 28 per cent rise in the previous quarter (fiscal Q2). The country now accounts for 15 per cent of Apple’s total revenue – from 2011 to 2013 Apple’s sales in the country doubled to $25.4 billion.
With all three mobile players now offering iPhone (China Mobile started in January) and China expected to be a key growth engine for the company, the decision could easily be interpreted as a snub.
Let’s see how Apple explains bypassing a market of 1.4 billion people and 1.2 billion mobile connections.
Pre-ordering opened today on Apple’s online stores in Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Australia and Japan.
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