Following the violence that spoiled Apple’s iPhone 4S launch at a number of retail stores throughout China earlier this month, the Cupertino company has introduced a new iPhone lottery system in Hong Kong that will make it incredibly difficult for scalpers to purchase the device. Those hoping to bag the device in-store must first request an iPhone reservation, then provide government-issued ID when they arrive to collect the handset.
The new system, discovered by 9to5Mac, will replace the existing first-come-first-served approach that has been working well for Chinese scalpers for too long. This system allowed anyone to walk into a store and pickup an iPhone, as often as they wished. Unfortunately, it meant genuine customers were losing out to gangs of scalpers who purchased the device with the sole intention of selling it on again later and making a very pretty profit.
But Apple’s new system will make this “business” very difficult. iPhone customers will now have to apply for a reservation online if they wish to pick the device up from a retail store. (Online sales are not affected.) Only once they’ve received confirmation of their reservation via email can they go and collect it, but they’ll need to provide a government-issued ID before Apple staff will sell them the handset.
Apple’s new rules explain:
Due to high demand, we are accepting a limited number of iPhone reservations per day. To request an iPhone reservation, please choose your store and the iPhone you want. If we have an iPhone reservation for you, you’ll receive a confirmation email by 9:00 p.m. tonight that includes the time when you can pick up your iPhone tomorrow. A government-issued photo ID matching the name and ID number on your reservation is required for iPhone purchases. If you don’t receive an email, we were unable to reserve an iPhone for you, and you can try again another time. Only those who receive an email confirming their reservation will be able to purchase an iPhone; we will not be selling iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S to walk-in customers.
This will prevent customers from purchasing the iPhone on a frequent basis and selling it on via the grey market. While it will make the process of purchasing an iPhone a little more difficult, it should mean there are more handsets to go around for genuine customers, and less for those pesky scalpers.
For now, the system applies to those in Hong Kong only, where scalpers are a real problem for Apple. Though if the system works, it’s possible it will roll out to other territories as well.