Cambodian consumers are queuing up to get their hands on the latest models of the iPhone, with some local grey-market retailers promising to stock the highly anticipated handsets months ahead of their expected official launch in the Kingdom.
Apple Inc will launch its new iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus handsets in 12 international markets on September 25.
No official date has been given for their release in the Cambodian market, but retailers looking back to the sales frenzy surrounding the iPhone 6’s debut last year say they are tapping their international networks to cash in on the lucrative trade in “flipped” smartphones.
Chhim Sang Heng, the owner of Hak Se phone shop in Phnom Penh, says he plans to begin selling phones in his shop within hours of their international release.
“I have many customers who have already pre-ordered the 6S even though they don’t know the price yet,” he said. “My friends will wait in line at the Apple store [overseas] to buy it and bring the iPhone to me in the evening.”
Heng said that during previous iPhone model releases, stock ran out on the launch date before many of the customers queuing at Apple stores overseas could purchase the handsets, despite Apple imposing a two-phone limit per customer.
Nonetheless, he plans to obtain and sell 50 to 60 phones on the first day of the launch, making them available in his store on the same evening.
Last year, Heng said he sold the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus for about $2,300 and $2,700, respectively.
“My customers who are willing to buy the high-priced iPhone understand how hard and difficult it is to wait in line for the iPhone,” he said.
According to the Apple website, the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus feature 3D touch, a 12-megapixel iSight camera, an updated smart chip, and a new rose gold colour option.
Employees at Vathanak phone shop in Phnom Penh predict that the new version of the iPhone will sell for $1,250 in the Cambodian grey market, compared to $649 and $749, the official retail prices for the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus respectively in the US.
They expect the street price will drop within days of the launch – but many customers are prepared to pay a premium to have the new model on the first day.
“My customers want me to call them when the iPhone 6S arrives, and they are going to buy from me,” Lun Maneth, manager at Vathanak phone shop said. “My customers like to buy the iPhone from my phone shop because it is the same quality as, but cheaper than, phones sold at the iOne centre or Smart.”
Maneth buys the handsets from wholesalers, or has his friends or relatives buy them from Apple stores in the US.
Ly Kim Hong, a small business owner from Takeo province, said that her entire family uses iPhones and she is planning to upgrade to the new model.
“I like to use iPhone because it doesn’t have bugs like other phones” she said. “I am a fan of iPhone and I will buy the new version once it’s released.”
But authorised retailers are urging customers to wait for the official Cambodian release.
Kao Damaityma, marketing manager of iOne, one of two licensed retailers in the Kingdom, warned that iPhones purchased on the grey market are more costly and come without a warranty.
“Customers should not buy iPhones from local phone shops, it is too risky,” she said.
“They can save more money [if they buy directly from iOne], because the cost at local shops is much higher than the cost of our authorised stock, which comes with a licensed warranty.”
She said that customers who purchased iPhones from local phone shops in the past contacted iOne about problems with their phones, such as altered accessories, fake serial numbers, or that the handset was previously used or its box had been opened.
Smart, the other authorised seller of iPhones in Cambodia, declined to comment yesterday. The telecom firm sold out of the iPhone 6 on its first day of official release in the Kingdom last November.