updated 12:50 am EDT, Tue September 17, 2013
16GB 'Space Gray' models still available, 5c also available for pre-order
[Update: Hong Kong sold out as well, white model now also sold out] In China, Apple has once again instituted a structured "reservation" system for the iPhone that is aimed at preventing scalpers and resellers from buying up all the available quantities of retail iPhones-- the incidence of which resulted in some violent incidents two years ago when the iPhone 4S went on sale. Sina Tech now reports that the gold color option for the full-price, unlocked iPhone 5s -- which many said was tailored for the Chinese market, Apple's second largest -- has sold out in all three stores in Beijing. The two other color options for the iPhone 5s are still available.
The report of a sellout of unlocked gold iPhones, which will formally debut on September 20 alongside the iPhone 5c, is only for the capital city in China. All three Beijing stores say their first-day stock was entirely spoken for just two hours after reservations went live. Other Chinese cities, such as Shanghai, are expected to follow suit if they haven't sold out already. The news suggests that Apple was prescient in creating and emphasizing the new gold color option for the iPhone 5s, the higher-priced of the two new iPhones.
Both the iPhone 5c and 5s became available for reservations on Tuesday morning (local time). In light of Apple's positioning and marketing of the iPhone 5c, the fact that the company hasn't yet revealed pre-order numbers for the more colorful model could indicate that the company is planning to withhold figures until both models are available for retail, and release only "blended" sales figures as it does with the iPad line. China Unicom, the country's second-largest carrier (and third-largest in world by subscriber base) previously announced that it has already received more than 100,000 reservations for both the iPhone models.
Buyers who have reserved an iPhone receive a "booking code" by calling a special number, which they can then enter into the reservation system. Once accepted, the buyer can choose a configuration and must then appear at the Apple Store at a pre-designated time to provide valid ID and complete the purchase.
Investors and pundits who were concerned that Apple has not yet provided iPhone 5c preorder numbers will likely be cheered by the strong interest shown in the new iPhones by the Chinese, which alongside new DoCoMo buyers in Japan and a possible forthcoming deal with China's top carrier China Mobile could allow Apple to sell an additional 35 million iPhones over and above the number of iPhone 5 units sold over the last year.
Update: Hong Kong is also reporting a sellout on all versions of both the white and gold iPhone 5s, and the Beijing stores now report a similar situation, with only the basic 16GB "Space Gray" still available. These reports reflect only the availability of full-price, unlocked iPhone 5s units -- not contract iPhones.