iPhone 6S already on sale in China, with speculators charging as much as US$3,300 per device
Demand for the new iPhone is reaching fever pitch in mainland China despite domestic smartphone makers releasing a host of new high-end devices to take on Apple's flagship.
Speculators in Shenzhen's Huaqiangbei, one of the country's largest smartphone grey markets, are already taking orders for the latest model – expected to be announced on Wednesday at an event in San Francisco – with prices outstripping even those of the iPhone 6 last year.
The asking price for a 16 GB iPhone 6S (as the new model is expected to be called) is between 8,900 and 9,250 yuan (US$1,300-1,450) while prices for larger-screen 128 GB iPhone 6S Plus ran as high as 21,000 yuan (US$3,300), vendors told the South China Morning Post.
While the vendors are operating from reliable rumours, nothing as yet has been officially announced, even the device's name has not been confirmed, with some suggesting it may be called the iPhone 7.
"People are crazy for the rumoured rose gold iPhone 6S handset," said Tang Qi, a dealer at a shop in Huaqiangbei.
"They're willing to pay about 2,000 yuan extra for a pink iPhone."
On the release of the iPhone 6 last year, grey market prices were between 8,000 and 18,000 yuan at smartphone markets in the city, Tang said.
In previous years, iPhones have been released later in mainland China than other markets, because of difficulties in getting permits from the Ministry of Information and Information Technology among other reasons.
That delay, combined with high demand, triggers speculation, with many attracted by the huge potential profits of reselling devices smuggled in from other markets, usually Hong Kong.
But Tang and other vendors predicted the demand will short-lived this time around, since the iPhone 6S is expected to be approved for sale by Chinese authorities later this month.
An abundant supply from Hong Kong and other overseas markets would also likely push prices down.
Regardless of supply however, Tang said there are always a handful of scalpers who are able to make big money from reselling iPhone models.
"Some of my friends who sold their goods quickly earned more than 1 million yuan last year," he said.
"These days, making or losing money really depends on the release date," said Xin Chong, another vendor in Guangzhou.
"We are racing against time."
Supplies of the iPhone 6 were much higher than expected, pushing the price down soon after it launched.
"We will be cautious and not buy up such large stocks at high prices this year," Xin said.
Such was the perceived potential for quick profit that last year, many Hongkongers even travelled across the border to resell iPhones in front of shops in Huaqiangbei, according to vendors there.
Tang said the demand was driven by the device's position as a status symbol.
"A lot of rich people across the country love buying iPhones as soon as they launch."
"Several of my clients who bought an iPhone 6 from me last September already called to book [the latest model], especially the pink ones."