This purported rear casing of an iPhone 5 was on sale from a Chinese website. Image: ETrade Supply
The Chinese have a curious take on intellectual property and retail. For example, if you desperately need to be one of the first people to own Apple’s next-generation iPhone, you can actually pre-order the “iPhone 5″ from a Chinese website. Right now. Today.
You can place your bet — er, pre-order — on Taobao with a deposit of 1,000 yuan (about $160). Taobao is actually a clearing house for various retailers, and some of its retail partners will even let you buy the non-existent and completely unannounced phone outright. Just pay 6,999 yuan ($1,100) up front to reserve your Apple handset. Taobao is a division of Alibaba group.
The opportunity to pre-order highly anticipated Apple gear is undoubtedly more useful to folks in China or other countries than U.S. buyers. Schemes like this theoretically allow Apple fans to get their hands on devices way before they become available on native soil.
The Taobao sellers told Reuters that they plan to buy the handsets in the U.S. and Hong Kong whenever it goes on sale, and then bring them to China. And they aren’t promising any specific delivery date.
The Taobao pre-orders bear a certain unseemliness, especially when we consider that China tends to be a hotbed for Apple knock-offs. The Alibaba parent site also sells a number of iPhone 5 cases, despite the fact that the product doesn’t even exist.
In June, a video of the rear chassis of the iPhone 5 purportedly emerged — from a Chinese website called ETrade Supply that was also selling the iPhone 5 (it was “Out of Stock”). That, other iPhone 5 parts, and the entire iPhone 5 section of the site have since been removed.
Apple expressly forbids the purchase of Apple products for reselling. Its sales policy states, “You may not purchase products at the Apple Store for resale, and we reserve the right to refuse or cancel your order if we suspect you are doing so. And we’re pretty good at figuring that out . . .”
Despite that threat, reselling continues to be rampant both in the U.S. and overseas. Apple is one of the most valuable and popular brands in the world. The massive anticipation for Apple’s next iPhone indicates that the next iPhone will be no exception to this trend. Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney told Wired yesterday, “The iPhone 5 is going to be one of the biggest consumer events we’ve ever seen in our lifetime.”