The iPhone XS (left) and iPhone XS Max. Photo: Weibo
The iPhone XS (left) and iPhone XS Max. Photo: Weibo

If the smartphone world is watching to see how fast the latest iPhones fly off the shelves in China, the first signs are not good.

According to online price lists from mainland resellers, all three new iPhone models – the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR – are changing hands at below their official prices, even before the much-anticipated new smartphones hit the market.

For example, an iPhone XS 64GB model costs about 8,340 yuan (US$1,218) on the grey market, down 4.2% from the official price of 8,699 yuan that Apple set for China.

Likewise, a 256GB XS is now 9,560 yuan while the 512GB model is 11,150 yuan, down 5.3% and 6.3% respectively.

The lower prices reflect the abundant supply of the new iPhones, which were shipped to China starting on Tuesday.

As a result, many mainland buyers, and in particular scalpers who had hoped to make quick money by “flipping” the devices, are reportedly in a panic, rushing to cancel their orders with Apple.

Photo: Reuters/Edgar Su
iPhones may be losing their allure in China due to hefty prices and a protracted trade row between China and the US. Photo: Reuters

The lukewarm response to the new iPhones, with most models surpassing the 10,000 yuan mark (US$1,463), could indicate that not even the most popular must-have gadgets among affluent Chinese consumers are immune to the effects of the Sino-American trade spat.

To cater for the Chinese market, Apple has offered a dual SIM card feature, of particular benefit to mainland users who often subscribe to more than one carrier.

Meanwhile, across the border in Hong Kong, the story is a different one. There, the iPhone XS Max 512GB model is changing hands at 14,800 yuan (US$2,161), or 2,001 yuan more than the official price.

Apple expert Kuo Ming-chi expects the US tech giant to ship between 75 million and 80 million new iPhone models in the next 12 months, with the XR model accounting for 55-60% of sales with the more expensive Max accounting for about a quarter of total sales.