updated 10:05 am EST, Thu November 10, 2011
Aggressive scalpers blamed
An iPhone 4S lineup at the Hong Kong Apple Store, measuring in the hundreds, was broken up by police on Wednesday night, reports say. Even though the phone only officially launches in Hong Kong on Friday, 4S pre-orders sold out in 10 minutes; this may be why a store lineup first started forming around noon on Tuesday. Police were called in after a group of scalpers allegedly started threatening customers and trying to cut in line.
At one point officers blocked the footbridge where people were waiting, and both scalpers and legitimate customers were urged to go home. This is said to have resulted in a game of hide-and-seek between police and the scalpers, who may be getting $500 HKD ($64 US) a person for staking out phones. As of Thursday a lineup was seen resuming along the footbridge, but with better enforcement including many police officers.
Hong Kong is a regular target of iPhone scalpers acting on behalf of gray-market vendors from the Chinese mainland. The device is cheaper in the city, and also unlocked, making it usable with carriers other than the official choice of China Unicom. Hong Kong also typically gets new iPhones before the rest of China, and for a brief period was the only way of finding a Chinese iPhone with Wi-Fi.