Apple to Sell New iPhones Only Via Website in China, Hong Kong

Customers who want to buy an Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone 4S in Hong Kong right now will have to order it online. In response to organized scalpers aggressively working to stock up on the recently-released iPhone in Hong Kong where lower taxes make prices lower, Apple has adopted rigid new policies to control ordering and delivery of the device in Hong Kong and mainland China, the China Daily said.

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The policies, launched on Tuesday in Hong Kong and Wednesday in Beijing, follow Apple’s nearly three-week suspension of iPhone 4S sales at stores in mainland China.

Apple has been accepting online orders on the mainland for up to two iPhone 4S devices per person since Wednesday, but they are not giving customers a specific delivery date. Instead, Apple is telling them they can expect delivery sometime before March 2, said an Apple sales staff member.

Apple blocked all direct sales of the iPhone 4S on the mainland when the product rolled out on Jan 13, after scalpers battled to get to the front of the lines of waiting customers.

Gray Market iPhone Sales

A great number of the phones sold in Hong Kong, end up on the gray market on the mainland, according to market researchers. The official retail price of a 16GB iPhone 4S in Hong Kong is HK$5,088, or $660, compared with 4,988 yuan, or $790, in Apple stores on the mainland.

Along with reopening mainland online sales, Apple has begun using a lottery system in Hong Kong for reserving the devices.

Buyers in Hong Kong have to visit Apple’s Hong Kong Web site between 9 a.m. and noon to reserve a phone. Those who are among the undisclosed number of applicants selected each day, receive an e-mail confirmation of their order by 9 p.m. the same day and are told when the phone will be available for pick up. Those not selected can try again on a different day. No phones are being sold to walk-in customers, according to a sign in the Hong Kong Apple Store.

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