Apple released its iPhone unlocked and without a plan this week in Hong Kong, the first release of its kind. Many, including I, wondered why Apple chose Hong Kong as its release point of this unprecedented package. Apple already sells its iPhones unlocked in countries with rules against locking phones to carriers. These includes Czech Republic, Greece, Hong Kong, Italy, Luxembourg, Macau, New Zealand, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, and Turkey (thanks DF).
However, in all of those locations, you have to buy the iPhone through the mobile provider…usually saddled with a plan and/or a providor markup. But Apple is selling the iPhone right from its site in Hong Kong. I can even order one here from Greenwich Village and have it sent to a friend in Hong Kong. You can’t do this anywhere else on earth. Why?
Many people buy the iPhone with the plan and then opt out for varying fees and sell it on the gray market. One report a year ago said 400,000 of them had made it to China. This hasn’t stopped with the iPhone 3G. Chinese customers have been buying gray market iPhones like crazy.
We all know talks with China’s largest carrier, China Mobile, have been going very poorly for Apple. According to some reports China Mobile wanted Apple to remove the Wifi access and only allow EDGE speeds on the iPhone. Obviously, this isn’t the experience Apple wants its customers to have.
So, the the question that must be asked… Is Apple dumping iPhones into the world’s largest market via Hong Kong because none of the Chinese carriers will accept the iPhone on Apple’s terms? Is Apple using the gray market that hurts so many retailers with knockoffs and pirated material to get at the Chinese mobile companies?
Don’t mess with the Jobs.