iPhone 4S pre-orders sold out in Hong Kong in 10 minutes

November 7, 2011: 10:24 AM ET

Bodes well for Friday's launch in 15 countries -- and maybe mainland China by December

The new Hong Kong Apple Store. Photo: Apple Inc.

Ticonderoga's Brian White, who has been keeping as close tabs on Apple's (AAPL) prospects in China as any Western analyst, reported Monday that pre-orders for the iPhone 4S ended almost as soon as they began in China last Friday.

According to his checks, pre-orders were sold out in Hong Kong 10 minutes after Apple started taking them. The iPhone 4S goes on sale this Friday in Hong Kong and 14 other countries, and according to White it will reach mainland China in December.

White anticipates long lines and serial stock outs despite the fact the phone's signature feature -- Siri -- doesn't yet work in Mandarin or Cantonese.

White has long maintained that Greater China -- which Apple defines as Hong Kong, mainland China and Taiwan -- represents the company's single greatest opportunity for growth. He notes that last quarter, Apple generated $4.5 billion in revenue (up 270% year over year) from Greater China -- 16% of total sales compared with 2% in fiscal 2009.

With the Apple Store that opened in Hong Kong in September and the opening of Shanghai's third retail outlet, the company now has a total of six stores in the region. It has set aside another $900 million to build 40 new stores in fiscal 2012, three quarters of them outside the U.S.

MEANWHILE: The Korean Daily News reports that the country's two largest telecommunication firms --  SK Telecom and KT -- opened online pre-orders for the iPhone 4S on Friday midnight and were immediately inundated:

"The website crashed due to high traffic at one point, and the two companies had over 200,000 pre-orders the same day, much more than the 130,000 pre-orders for the iPhone 4 in August last year."

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Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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