Gray market to feel the squeeze after mainland launch of product
Customers wait outside an Apple store in Beijing for Saturday's launch of the iPhone 4 in the mainland. Zou Hong / China Daily
BEIJING - Apple Inc will introduce the iPhone 4 and open two more retail outlets in Beijing and Shanghai on Saturday, which will squeeze the lucrative gray market for the popular gadget.
Apple and China Unicom said earlier this month that the iPhone 4 would be available in the Chinese mainland from Saturday, retailing at Apple retail stores for 4,999 yuan ($735) for the 16GB model or 5,999 yuan for the 32GB model, both without a contract.
Users have already formed lines waiting for the release of the new product.
Beijing bookshop owner Han Ziwen, who was the first person to buy an iPad in the city's Sanlitun area on Sept 18, now heads a line outside the Apple Store at Xidan Joy City in Beijing.
"The iPad and iPhone 4 will certainly have a great impact on the publishing industry. My bookstore will either be destroyed or have to find a new way forward. I have to witness the process," he said.
The release of the official iPhone 4 will not only affect the traditional publishing sector, but also the gray market for the popular smart phone.
The iPhone 4 cost as much as 12,000 yuan when it was first available on China's gray market in June, but after the two companies announced the official price for the iPhone 4, the gray market price dropped to 5,500 yuan, which is "still too high for a smuggled iPhone 4", said 28-year-old iPhone fan Xiao Ning in Beijing.
"We cut the price by 200 yuan this week, but customers still think it is too high since they can buy an official one from an Apple store for 4,999 yuan," said Yang Yan, a vendor in Beijing's Zhongguancun area, the city's largest electronics market.
For customers, a lower price and a repair guarantee are the main reasons for buying an official iPhone 4.
"Since China Unicom launched the iPhone in China in October 2009, user response has been very positive," said Li Gang, senior vice-president of China Unicom.
"We hope that the iPhone 4 will continue this success."
With a new two-year contract, the iPhone 4 will retail at 5,880 yuan for the 16GB version and 6,999 yuan for the 32GB version.
China Unicom did not reveal the timeframe for launching the 3G iPad in China.
Apple's first store in the mainland opened in Beijing's Sanlitun area in 2008.
This July, it opened a second one in Shanghai's Lujiazui area.
Ron Johnson, Apple's senior retail vice-president, said in July that the company aims to open 25 stores in the Chinese mainland by the end of 2012.