Interest in iPhone 5 lower than usual, Hong Kong parallel-import shops say

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 September, 2012, 3:03pm

The iPhone may be starting to lose its appeal in Hong Kong, if lacklustre demand and lower prices for the latest model, the iPhone 5, at parallel-import shops is anything to go by.

Vendors said interest in the Apple device had been waning in the past two years. Samsung smartphones, on the other hand, had been gaining market share, an industry professional said.

Hong Kong will be among the first batch of nine markets to see the official launch of iPhone 5 sales on September 21, a departure from a trend of lagging behind the United States and other regions for the latest models.

The fact that Hong Kong would be among the first places to get the new phone had hurt demand for grey-market versions, said Lau Chi-kong, who runs G-World Mobile. It sells parallel imports of phones in Sin Tat Plaza.

The lack of surprises in the device, coupled with an abundance of smartphone competitors, also hurt demand, Lau said.

"I'm quite disappointed [in the iPhone 5], as there are no revolutionary changes. There are also too many models, such as those of Samsung, on the market."

Lau's shop received 20 pre-orders for the iPhone 5, a far cry from the hundreds of inquiries it got before the iPhone 4 was launched in 2010, and about 100 calls for the iPhone 4S last year.

The grey market price has also tumbled: from as much as HK$13,000 for the 4S to between HK$6,588 and HK$8,188 for the iPhone 5, or about HK$1,000 more than official Apple prices.

Parallel imports are generally more expensive, as they are sought after by phone geeks from Hong Kong and the mainland who want the latest models before their official launches. The iPhone 4S was launched in the US and six other countries in October, followed by Hong Kong a month later, while mainland buyers had to wait until January.

Apple has yet to announce an official launch date on the mainland, where interest in parallel imports may still be high.

Francis Fong Po-kiu, president of the Information Technology Federation, said Samsung smartphones in Hong Kong had risen to bag a market share comparable to the iPhone. "The iPhone 5 may beat a particular Samsung model. But if you take all the models into consideration, it may not be the case."

The latest model uses a new nano SIM card, which is smaller than the card used in the iPhone 4S. Lau said he could cut old SIM cards to fit into the iPhone 5.

However, Giesecke & Devrient, the German maker of the nano card, said it was 15 per cent thinner. Users could cut the length and width of the micro card, but might not be able to make it thinner without damaging the chip, it said.