In Thailand, Smuggled iPhones Go for Up to $1,400

BANGKOK – IPhone fanatics lined up in their droves across Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong to pick up the latest version of Apple Inc AAPL -0.49%.’s smartphone Friday. But enthusiasm also raged in Thailand – a country where the iPhone 5 won’t go on sale until later this year.

Customers here are flocking to crowded shopping warrens such as Mahboonkrong in downtown Bangkok to place deposits on phones smuggled in from places such as Hong Kong, Singapore and even the United States. One vendor in MBK – as it is known – said his team will try to bring over 100 phones into Thailand, and so far more than 80 people have handed over deposits of 5,000 baht, or $160, per phone.

Bloomberg News
People wait in line outside the Apple store on George Street in Sydney on Friday.

This contraband comes at a price, however. The an unlocked, top-end 64 gigabyte iPhone 5 will cost 43,000 baht, or $1,387, compared with about $927 in Hong Kong. The cheaper 16GB version goes for 35,000 baht, with the 32GB version selling for 39,000 baht.

“There is very high demand here, that’s why the prices are so high. Many people want to be among the first to have the new iPhone, but nobody knows exactly when it will go on sale in Thailand,” said a vendor who asked not to be identified, adding that this was a “golden time” for MBK’s phone traders. “If you want one, you’d better make a deposit now,” he said.

The first batch will arrive at MBK at around noon on Saturday, traders said. “If you want to see some pandemonium, come then,” one added.

The new iPhone will cost much less when it makes its official launch in Thailand later this year, and will set back customers around the same it costs them to get an unlocked iPhone 4S at present.

What is less clear is when the new phones will be available. Representatives at the DTAC network run by Total Access Communications sa DTAC.TH +2.59%id they don’t know when they will be ready to sell the iPhone 5 in Thailand. An official at rival network Advanced Info Service said that it might be able to have the new phones available for subscribers at the end of this month, potentially giving the first batch of iPhone buyers just a couple of weeks of posing time before the rest of the country can get their mitts on them.


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