Why do people queue for iPhones overnight & how do some retailers sell them below recommended retail price?

More to the story.

Jonathan Lim | September 21, 2018 @ 12:50 pm

Photos of crowds of people queuing more than 24 hours for the launch of the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max show iPhones are still hot property to some:

Hundreds of Apple fans queuing in Orchard for new iPhones nearly 24 hours before launch

This new launch marks some of the most expensive iPhone models that Apple has ever released. The range-topping 512GB iPhone XS Max retails for S$2,349.

This also caused some Singaporeans to grumble that the people queuing up for the phones are probably the same people who complain that living in Singapore is expensive and that they are dirt poor.

But are they right?

Why queue?

It is perhaps no coincidence that the first person to land a new iPhone in Singapore this morning (Sept. 21) is Le Van Thang, who flew in from Vietnam, to purchase the phone.

Unavailable in the region except Singapore

Singapore is the first country in the region to release the new iPhones.

Aside from Le who bought a phone for himself, there were also people in queue waiting to buy the phones to resell back in their home countries.

According to Channel NewsAsia, there was a group of Vietnamese students who were tasked to buy the iPhones for a Vietnamese phone shop.

They were paid S$100 for each phone.

Tourists who bought the phones from the Apple store can also claim GST refunds.

Regional phone flippers

Already, there are Carousell listings for the new iPhones in Indonesia going above the Singapore recommended retail price (RRP) of S$2,349.

This listing, for example, is selling the same model for S$2,760 and states clearly the phone was “100% Original From Singapore”:

The official launch date in Indonesia is unclear at the moment although sources point to a date as early as Sep. 28.

Local flippers

Flipping phones is not only restricted to our neighbours. There are also local flippers who want to take advantage of the hype surrounding the phones.

Currently all models of the new iPhones are sold out and will only be available in one to two weeks’ time.

A cursory search on Carousell shows several listings for various models selling 10 to 20 percent above RRP:

There are also several threads on Hardwarezone (HWZ) discussing flip prices:

However, it seems that the local flipping scene may not be as bullish as expected for individual flippers.

There are several threads on HWZ asking flippers to not reduce their prices:

They claim that dealers were listing export sets at below RRP to drive resale prices down.

These retailers, they claimed, would then swoop in to buy these flipped phones at cheaper prices and resell them at a profit later.

Phones below RRP

There are several non-telco retailers in Singapore that purportedly have been able to sell the new phones at 5 to 20 percent below RRP.

While some may have ready stock (which means they are selling at a loss) or have export sets at discount prices (but risk losing their distributorship if Apple clamps down on them), most let you “pre-order” local sets of iPhones at discount prices.

They might be able to do so because they buy phones from regular Singaporeans re-contracting with their telcos.

When re-contracting, new phones can be bought at a discounted price. The discount depends on the phone contract.

The retailers would then resell those phones as brand new to their “pre-order” customers.

So, where will your next iPhone purchase come from?

In an overnight queue at the Apple store, at a mark-up from flippers, at a discount from retailers, or from your telco?

Image taken by Deanna Teng

About Jonathan Lim

Jon is thankful that Singapore is interesting enough to keep a website like Mothership.sg up and running.

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