iPhone 6's delayed launch in China could stoke more demand

China won't be among the first markets to sell the iPhone 6

Apple's iPhone 6 announcement drew some disappointment in mainland China, when consumers learned that the country wouldn't be among the first markets to receive the product.

"They assemble the product in China, but don't release it here first?" posted one Chinese Internet user on a local news portal. Other online users declared they would visit Hong Kong, where the iPhone 6 will go on sale on Sept. 19, the same date consumers in the U.S. can buy it. But some even called for a boycott of Apple products, citing the delay.

"They are obviously looking down upon China. Let's all boycott Apple," wrote one user on the Chinese Twitter-like site Sina Weibo.

Last year, Apple made sure to give Chinese consumers first dibs on its latest iPhone. Starting in 2011, the "Greater China" region, which includes mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, has become Apple's second largest market behind the U.S.

Apple didn't comment on why the iPhone 6 won't arrive on the Chinese mainland on Sept. 19, but regulatory checks by the Chinese government may be to blame.

The iPhone 6 has yet to receive the necessary "network access" license from local regulators, said Gene Cao, an analyst with Forrester Research. It's a certification that all commercially sold mobile phones in China must receive.

Over a year ago, Apple CEO Tim Cook also reportedly said that China's regulatory checks had delayed previous product launches in the country. In some cases, Apple's iPhone and iPad have arrived in the market weeks or months after they first went on sale in the U.S.

Cao, however, said the current delay wouldn't hurt Chinese demand for the new iPhone. "China consumers will get the iPhone 6 soon," he said, pointing to how local mobile carriers are already starting to offer pre-orders for the device.

A delayed launch may even fuel more demand for the iPhone 6 in China, said Bryan Ma, an analyst with research firm IDC. Past product launches in the country including the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4s arrived months later after the start of U.S. sales, but still brought out massive crowds of eager Chinese consumers, even sparking skirmishes among customers.

In the case of the iPhone 6, the product will at least be available in neighboring Hong Kong on Sept. 19. Electronics dealers will be preparing to buy the product from the city, only to ship the units to mainland China where they can be sold for a higher price, Ma said.

"If you weren't in the mainland, you still found a way to get it through other means," he added.

iPhones sold from these unofficial dealers have been known to reach as high as $2,000 per unit, only to later fall when Apple finally announces direct sales to Chinese consumers.

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Michael Kan

IDG News Service
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