updated 01:05 pm EST, Thu January 12, 2012
Goes on sale at 12:01AM local time
The five Apple Stores in mainland China are seeing hundreds of people in line for the iPhone 4S, reports say. The phone will officially launch in the region on January 13th, three months after its initial rollout in the US and a host of other countries. Apple's Chinese outlets are divided between two in Beijing and three in Shanghai, as well as a lone Hong Kong location. The last city has had the 4S since early November.
"Most" mainland stores are said to be using a ticketing system to discourage line-jumping. A problem at all of the stores, though, is expected to be scalpers, who buy phones on behalf of gray marketers that in turn sell them at a premium. Aside from interfering with sales to legitimate customers, their presence has sometimes instigated fights at past Apple launches.
Carrier China Unicom, meanwhile, is set to begin selling the 4S online at 12:01AM. Much of the scalping activity though is related to getting unlocked devices, which are in demand by people wanting to use an iPhone on China Mobile instead. Apple is selling unlocked units at costs of roughly $790, $932, and $1,074 for 16, 32, and 64GB models. Unicom, by contrast, is offering 16 and 32GB models for free with two- or three-year contracts.
[Xidan Joy City, Beijing]