While residents of the United States are lining up next Friday to buy the new iPhone 5s, residents of China will have already registered on-line to make their in-store purchase. But although the process is being called a “pre-order” by some, the procedure is really part of a now-standard reservation policy that regulates all sales of high-demand products in China, intended to limit crowds of buyers and eliminate scalpers. As first reported by MacTrast, those in China who want to buy the new iPhone 5s must go to Apple’s Web site starting on September 17th, and log in with an Apple ID. After selecting their preferred model and carriers, they must then appear at an Apple store on-time and with ID to complete the transaction.The reservation process became standard in 2010 when crowds of line-sitters and scalpers surrounded Apple’s China stores, lured by the high, black market value of iPhones. The limited number of Apple stores and constrained supply of iPhones in some cases doubled their value, both inside and outside the country.
Before the reservation system was put in place, scalpers would besiege Apple’s stores, purchase dozens of iPhones with cash, and sell them at a profit through various channels. In some cases they were even selling them outside the Apple stores to those with no time to wait in line. But several incidents of violence and property damage likely drew the attention of local police officials, who then likely convinced Apple to switch to a reservation-only purchase system. The larger sales network in China and improved supply of iPhones has mitigated the original crush of iPhone buyers, but Apple has retained the reservation system.