24 October 2016
An employee checks iPhones on display inside an Apple Store. Upgraded versions of the handsets are expected to hit the market this month. Photo: Internet
An employee checks iPhones on display inside an Apple Store. Upgraded versions of the handsets are expected to hit the market this month. Photo: Internet

Get ready for fresh iPhone fever, albeit on smaller scale

Apple fans are counting down to the tech giant’s annual fall event, wondering what exactly the iPhone maker will reveal Wednesday about new product launches.  

The Cupertino-based firm — in keeping with its tradition — has remained tight-lipped about its plans, but most observers believe it will unveil upgraded versions of its smartphones. 

The new phones — to be called iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, according to industry talk, are expected to feature, among other things, substantial upgrades to the cameras.

There is also speculation that the company could announce a new version of the Apple TV set-top box to make it more attractive to gamers. 

Now we just have to wait until 10 am Pacific Daylight Time (1 am Thursday Hong Kong Time), when Apple executives will take the stage at an auditorium in San Francisco, to get to know what exactly lies in store.

Media buzz has been building steadily in the run-up to the announcement, but the chatter among the general public is at a relatively smaller scale compared to Apple’s similar event last year. 

There hasn’t been too much excitement about the expected new smartphone models, in contrast to the frenzy seen in 2014 before the launch of iPhone 6.

Apple’s strategy to revamp the product line every two years means there won’t be any significant changes to the phone’s appearance this time, even as there are hopes that the firm could fix some design and other issues related to the rear camera.

Tech media websites have flagged the expected features and performance enhancements for the new versions of the phones, which include a faster processor, 2GB RAM and force touch display.

The only uncertainty is color, given the conflicting media reports.

Some leaked photos suggested that Apple would introduce another color — rose gold — to woo female buyers, using a similar trick deployed in 2012 when it added a touch of gold to the iPhone’s original silver and black finishes.

But a senior executive at China Telecom’s Shanghai branch, which is finalizing tailor-made new monthly plans for the upcoming handsets, has tweeted that talk of a new iPhone in rose gold is nothing but “thin air”.

That said, Apple stores, particularly in Hong Kong, can still expect strong initial sales.

For one thing, Hongkongers are obsessed with the novelty of new digital devices, changing their smartphones virtually every year to acquire the latest model to flaunt it around, especially when they can get hold of it ahead of consumers in other markets.

For another, the city is a big center for grey market operators. Scalpers and speculators will lose no time in the once-in-a-year golden season to rake in some easy money.

People are confident that the new iPhones won’t be immediately available in China, offering an opportunity to buy up the handsets in Hong Kong and resell them to mainlanders at a high premium.

The frenzy is not limited to professional speculators; even many ordinary citizens will seek to cash in on the iPhone mania. Who can resist the lure of easy money?

Since walk-in purchases won’t be possible during the initial period of undersupply, bookings through Apple website and its online store are the only channels.

It’s said that phone reservations will open on Sept. 11, with earliest shipment arranged within a week.

Various bot programs, developed to make reservations automatically for those who dread the prospect of hitting the F5 button on their computer keyboards for hours, are also available, although their reliability is not guaranteed.

Now, one piece of advice for speculators: time is money; resell the new phone the moment you get your hands on it. Hoarding may be a sensible tactic during periods of tight supply, but such approach may not pay off this time.

The Hong Kong Economic Journal reports that Foxconn is better poised to churn out more devices to meet demand this year. Even if China is not among the first batch of markets for immediate shipment, Apple will make certain that customers there won’t be left waiting too long.

Also, how long the appetite will last is also uncertain, given the new model’s unchanged design and Chinese buyers’ common preference for external looks over functionality.

As for the genuine buyers, they can acquire the new product via their telecom carriers.

SmarTone, 3 Hong Kong and China Unicom Hong Kong have in place reservation options to order the new iPhones. A person will receive a code indicating his position in the queue after submitting a simple online application form.

In the coming weeks, expect the four Apple Stores in the city – in Central, Causeway Bay, Tsim Sha Tsui and Kowloon Tong — to be jam-packed with fans and parallel traders.

Online forums will be awash with chatter about how good or bad the new iPhones are, and there will be fresh media reports about black marketers.

Whether you like it not, be prepared for the familiar noise.

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Apple Store in Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay district. Scalpers throng the streets whenever the US tech giant unveils new gadgets. Photo: HKEJ

The new iPhones will have the same external design as those of the previous generation, according to market talk.

EJ Insight writer

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