Chinese scalpers are feeling the squeeze. Seven years ago, a generation of them struck it rich by reselling the iPhone 4 for as much as RMB 10,000 (around $1,500 for a phone that launched for up to $699) to Apple fanatics and curious consumers. One day after iPhone 8 hit the shelves in China last week, scalpers were offering the 4.7-inch gold model for RMB 500 ($75) cheaper than the shelf price.
“It’s the first time this has happened, that the [scalper] price slipped below the launch price within one day,” a scalper from Beijing’s tech hub Zhongguancun told local media (in Chinese).
In stark contrast to the swarm of buyers and scalpers outside Apple Stores in the past, the queuing railings set aside for iPhone 8 launch across China are far from being filled. The tepid reception of the new model has sent Apple’s stock down the worst weekly performance during the week of a major product launch since the first iPhone release in 2007.
Apple has not published any official sales figure on iPhone 8 yet, but a survey done by Tencent’s research unit Penguin Intelligence predicted the cold shoulders. Only 16% of existing iPhone users are planning to replace their phones, down 27.8% year-on-year. A similar trend is observed among Android users, signaling the calm-down of China’s smartphone crave.
Analysts are split in their projection for iPhone X. Some are hopeful that the arrival of the premium-tier phone will pick up the slack left by iPhone 8. Others caution iPhone X’s high price tag—almost doubling China’s average monthly salary. Local smartphone brands, which are on average more affordable than iPhones, are also going strong. Domestic smartphone makers are gobbling up 87% of China’s smartphone shipments in Q2 2017. Xiaomi overtook Apple’s fourth place in that same period.
Scalpers are suffering from slumping demand also because China has become one of the first in Asia to receive the new iPhones in store. “The era for scalpers has gone,” says the Zhongguancun scalper.