Smugglers claimed to have exhausted China’s iPhone 6 interest

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Apple couldn't be more popular in China -- among customers, that is!
Apple is likely to receive final approval for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus to go on sale in China in October.

Due to challenges receiving regulatory approval, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus has yet to make it into China through official channels.

That’s not enough to stop the New York Times running a story claiming that scalpers have already exhausted demand for Apple’s next gen handsets in the country that may one day overtake the U.S. in terms of iPhone sales, however.

The article notes that, despite the fact that the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus will not officially go on sale for a few weeks (October 10, according to a leaked memo), the gray market has “already dried up” — with wholesalers who smuggled tens of thousands of iPhones into the country being forced to “[slash] prices to move inventory.”

“Stocks of the iPhone 6 are way too high right now,” one Beijing wholesaler of smuggled iPhones is quoted as saying.

The New York Times puts the lack of demand down to the rise of other smartphones, such as those from Xiaomi, which now rival the iPhone as status symbols.

There is another option, however — and one that doesn’t rely on “tens of thousands” of smuggled iPhones apparently exhausting the demand for Apple’s latest handset in a country where the biggest mobile provider has 763 million customers.

For one thing, scalpers in China have been charging excessively high prices for iPhones — in some cases up to 7x their cost in the U.S. With a rumored launch date just weeks away, it’s likely that many customers would rather wait until they can get a cheaper, unopened iPhone 6 in its original packaging.

On top of this a government crackdown on smuggling electronics products has made buying and selling smuggled iPhones much trickier and riskier than in previous years.

Whatever the reason, it’s difficult to get too upset about smugglers (who represented a significant portion of first day iPhone 6 trade around the world) getting caught out.

The article does, however, seem to back up reports of a possible mid-October launch date for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus in China — by suggesting that final regulatory approval is likely to be given prior to October 1, which is China’s National Day celebrations.