24 March 2019
A smuggler (left) was found to have concealed 94 iPhone units around his body, making him look like a Transformer (right). Photos: Ming Pao, internet
A smuggler (left) was found to have concealed 94 iPhone units around his body, making him look like a Transformer (right). Photos: Ming Pao, internet

iPhone Transformers never die

Poor “Apple Transformer”, the Hong Kong man whose robotic gait aroused the suspicion of security officers at the Huanggang Port Control Point. He was arrested after authorities discovered 94 units of the latest iPhone models taped all over his body.

Aside from the fact that he was not very good at concealing contraband, he should have known that the Apple HK Store is now available for all-day online orders for the first time since the official launch of iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus models last Sept. 19.  

The average delivery time was said to be between three and 10 days, depending on the model and color. (The gold iPhone 6 Plus has been the best-selling item so far.)

That should be good news for Apple fans, but bad news for iPhone traders who thrive on what is famously known as the “Hong Kong-China discount”.

Call them occupiers without the yellow umbrella. Hundreds of traders have been gathering around the Apple Store in Causeway Bay and at IFC in Central every day to solicit iPhone buyers to sell their handsets at a premium, which went from over HK$10,000 on the first day. Now, however, local papers suggest there’s a discount if you sell the new phones to retailers.

The traders, many of them speaking mandarin, would either sell the handsets at Huaqiang Road in Shenzhen, where Asia’s largest mobile and accessories center is located. Some may try their luck at Sin Tat Plaza in Mong Kok, another famous exchange and clearing center for mobile phones.

Yours truly has become a frequent visitor to Sin Tat because a mainland buddy wants to gift clients with iPhones. In the past two months, we paid around HK$7,000, or a premium of nearly 10 percent, for an iPhone 6 64GB listed at HK$6,388.

That was still more affordable than the listed price of 6,088 yuan (HK$7,300) for the same model sold in China last Oct. 17, not to mention that there was a big shortage of iPhone supply across the border.

The price discount provided some exciting trading opportunities for many people who are willing to work the streets and run back and forth through immigration and customs counters. I heard some of these people are making more money than stockbrokers.

My buddy who dropped by Hong Kong every other week always took two sets of iPhone 6 to Guangzhou and sometimes Beijing. From his experience, it was easier to smuggle goods through direct train or airport than the Shenzhen border.

He was caught once in Shenzhen, but luckily he was only slapped a HK$500 fine, still lower than the official price, he figured. But to compensate for his shock, he told the client he was fined 2,000 yuan and got a rebate.

In this fast-changing world, only iPhone can weave that kind of magic that would keep people lining up outside Apple stores and mobile shops for four months, much longer than the queue for some famous Japanese noodle shops while the booking period definitely beats that of Jamie’s Italian restaurant.

For phone traders, your break will not be too long. iPhone 6S is coming in March and iPhone 7 later this year. With iPhone, traders never die.

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The smuggler’s poor attempt at concealment also reminds people of the ancient royal burial clothes made of jade and gold strings, which Chinese emperors believed could preserve their bodies. Photo: internet

EJ Insight writer

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