It took little more than five hours for the first Apple iPhone 5 to go on sale in China after being smuggled across the border from Hong Kong, but supplies were short and prices high.
In a crowded building in the southern city of Shenzhen, a salesman stood by as shoppers speaking various dialects scrambled to take photos of three shiny new iPhones on display in his glass cabinet.
"The stock is so limited that people are treating these iPhone 5s like gems," said another cigarette-smoking salesman, surnamed Lin. "I pre-ordered online and got quite a few people to do the same but I could only get a few."
New Apple products are typically rolled out later in mainland China than in Hong Kong, creating a thriving " grey market" for enterprising traders. According to local media reports the iPhone 5 is expected go on sales in China by year-end.
Vendors such as Lin also make a year-round living exploiting the price difference between Apple and other popular brands in Hong Kong, a free port just an hour from Shenzhen with zero-duty on many electronics imports, and China.