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Gray market iPhone 6 prices plunge in China

Gregg Keizer | Sept. 24, 2014
Meanwhile, customs authorities have seized hundreds of the new smartphones.

iphone 6 seized in china
Smuggled sets of Apple iPhone 6 are displayed after being found hidden in a tea leaves box at the customs in Shenzhen, near the Hong Kong border, on Sept. 19. Credit: REUTERS/China Daily

Prices of gray market iPhones have fallen in China, according to a report by the Communist Party's official house organ today.

As of Tuesday, prices of the iPhone 6 in the People's Republic of China (PRC) were down as low as 7,200 yuan ($1,172 at today's exchange rate) for a 16GB model, the People's Daily reported (Chinese language version).

Meanwhile, the lowest price of a 16GB iPhone 6 Plus -- the larger smartphone that boasts a 5.5-in. display -- was 11,000 yuan ($1,791).

Just last week, the state-controlled Xinhua News Agency cited iPhone 6 prices starting at 13,000 yuan ($2,117 at the time) and iPhone 6 Plus prices as high as 20,000 yuan ($3,257) for "pre-orders" placed with sellers who expected to get their hands on the new devices almost as soon as they went on sale outside the PRC.

The People's Daily today said other quotes gathered by reporters showed that Monday's prices were between 7% and 17% lower than just days prior.

Prices fluctuate quickly on the gray market and are closely tied to not just supply and demand, but timing, sellers told the People's Daily.

Opening prices are naturally highest, since the market will bear extraordinary prices when those who demand to be first are willing to pay whatever it takes. As time passes, even if only a few days, that demand diminishes as others -- with money, but not thousands to spend on a phone -- wonder whether it's smarter to simply wait for the iPhone to reach the PRC.

In fact, news from China via Reuters earlier today hinted that the iPhone approval may be imminent. According to Reuters, Miao Wei, the head of China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), said that Apple was on the last leg of approval.

"The iPhone 6 has entered the final stage of the approval process, now it's just a matter of time," Miao told Tencent in an exclusive interview, said Reuters.

Last week, Xinhua contended that the iPhone 6 had received two of the three licenses needed in China, and was awaiting network access approval.

The PRC was not among the first or second wave of markets for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, a change from last year and a major reason for the record prices for smuggled smartphones.

Those smugglers have been busy, as have Chinese authorities, by other accounts in local media. Customs officials in Shenzhen -- the massive city just north of Hong Kong -- have seized hundreds of iPhone 6 and 6 Plus smartphones (Chinese language website) in the last three days as people have tried to sneak them into the country in automobile armrests, or in boxes of tea, coffee or snack cakes.


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