The new gold color option for the iPhone 5s might be driving higher demand over the 5c in China, but for those unable to find or afford the more expensive model, gold stickers and skins have quickly become an inexpensive alternative. The Wall Street Journal reports that a long list of retailers in the country have started offering gold skins for the iPhone 5/5s, allowing users to give their iPhone a similar gold appearance for as little as $2.
“Dear, you don’t need to sell your kidney for the new iPhone,” one of the ads said.“Instead of paying 5288 yuan (the retail price of the 16-gigabyte iPhone 5S in China), you only need to spend 35 yuan to make your iPhone 5 look like a golden iPhone 5S in seconds.”
The report notes that online retailers through taobao.com have sold thousands of gold iPhone skins in less than a month, and there is certainly no shortage of similar options through Amazon and other online retailers.
The new gold iPhone is in limited supply at most retailers around the world, and even Apple’s own retail stores have had extremely limited supply of the model compared to other color options since the device’s launch on September 20.
As noted by WSJ, the gold iPhone 5s is considered somewhat of a status symbol in the country with local Chinese media often referring to the gold 5s model as “Tuhao Jin” or “local tyrant’s gold.”
The grey market for iPhones in China is no secret, with thousands of the devices smuggled from places like Hong Kong and the U.S. back into Mainland China for sale by scalpers. Today, Reuters reported that 26 suppliers of one of China’s largest online grey market iPhone dealers, Lanyou Shuma.com, are currently on trial in a Shenzhen court. According to local reports, many of the suppliers accused in the case are “described as housewives who frequently travel to Hong Kong.” Citing various local newspapers, Reuters said the housewives were usually paid 20 Yuan to 30 Yuan for each phone smuggled back to China, with 25 of the defendants accused of smuggling both iPads and iPhones:
On Wednesday, 26 suppliers of Lanyou Shuma.com were tried in a Shenzhen court as part of five rings that smuggled more than 162,000 mobile phones worth over 500 million yuan ($80 million) from Hong Kong over the past two years, the Beijing News said.
Half of the suspects are described as housewives who frequently travel to Hong Kong, according to another newspaper, the Southern Metropolis Daily, adding that they were paid 20 to 30 yuan in commission for each phone they brought back to the mainland
The Lanyou Shuma.com digital store, once one of the largest on China’s Taobao Marketplace, was forced to close in April by Taobao after Hong Kong authorities launched an investigation on possible smuggling of the iPhone 4S, the Beijing News said.