FORTUNE -- Four days after Apple (AAPL) began taking pre-orders for the new iPhone 5C, the device is available in all colors and configurations except for the most expensive: the T-Mobile and SIM-free models that start at $549.
Why would that be?
It's simple, really. A lot of those unlocked phones are headed for overseas grey markets.
And the biggest grey market of all is China.
Thanks to various taxes and import fees, the unlocked iPhone 5C that Apple sells for $549 in New York sells for 4,488 yuan or $731 in Beijing. That $181 (33%) price differential creates a market opportunity for anyone who can find a low-cost way around those taxes and import fees.
And you can bet that somebody already has.
See, for example, the New York Times' report on the Chinatown connection.
Why are the lines of Chinese buyers are so long in the U.S. and so short in Beijing?
FORTUNE -- Two seemingly contradictory stories made headlines this week.
On Tuesday, a 44-year-old Chinese woman was captured on video being tased and handcuffed in a Nashua, N.H., mall after trying to buy more than her allotted quota of iPhone 5s. According to witnesses she became violently abusive when asked to leave the store, first MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Dec 15, 2012 11:14 AM ET
Supplies are tight, say Shanghai scalpers, but should ease in a week or so
FORTUNE -- "iPad mini price fry the 3000 yuan cattle worried not sell."
That, according to Google Translate, is the headline in The Phoenix, a Chinese language website that covers the Asian tech market.
The thrust of the story is that although the Apple (AAPL) store in Hong Kong is selling 16GB iPad minis for HK$ 2588 ($334), the MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Nov 3, 2012 6:40 AM ET
Why did one survey find 36% first-time iPhone buyers when a second saw half as many?
FORTUNE -- Here's an odd discrepancy.
In a survey of 100 iPhone 5 buyers conducted outside New York City Apple Stores Friday, Topeka Capital found that 36% (the purple slice of the top pie chart at right) were purchasing their first iPhone -- suggesting that more one in three buyers were switching to an iPhone 5 MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Sep 22, 2012 4:23 PM ET
Sluggish demand, says one report. An over-abundance of supply, says another.
Dueling stories Monday in Reuters and the Financial Times about the Chinese gray market for Apple (AAPL) products agree on one thing: The prices the new iPad can fetch have fallen roughly 30% in the past two weeks.
When the latest iPad -- the one with the much-hyped Retina display -- showed up in Beijing the day after its U.S. launch, Chinese MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Mar 26, 2012 6:45 AM ET
Thousands left empty-handed as scalpers rush to feed a hungry gray market
Even with the support of Chinese riot police, police dogs, private security guards and an elaborate grid of metal barricades, Apple (AAPL) could barely contain the chaos when the gates of the Hong Kong Apple Store opened Friday morning and customers began to run up the store's spiral glass staircase.
An Apple-sanctioned queue of roughly 1,250 were allowed to file MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Nov 11, 2011 6:59 AM ET
By Sunday, the new tablets were selling in China for up to 105% over their sticker price
The staff manning the huge crowd that mobbed Apple's (AAPL) Fifth Avenue Store Friday estimate that as many as half the iPads sold that day were being bought for re-sale overseas.
It's a familiar pattern. In September, the New York Times ran an investigative report detailing how Chinese customers were lining up to buy pairs MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Mar 14, 2011 8:02 AM ET
A team of New York Times reporters traces an underground trade route -- in the nick of time
Nick Bilton got this one in just under the wire.
Bilton, the lead tech writer for the Times' Bits Blog, has a fascinating piece on the front page of Thursday's paper that couldn't hold much longer.
With the help of three other reporters, he tells the story of how iPhone 4s manufactured in China and MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Sep 23, 2010 5:39 AM ET
Having stirred up a hornet's nest with his first take in the so-called missing iPhones, Bernstein Research's Apple (AAPL) specialist Toni Sacconaghi has taken a second look at the discrepancy between the number of iPhones Apple sold (3.75 million through Dec. 29) and the number AT&T (T) actually activated (just under 2 million through Dec. 31).
His conclusion: most of the devices he describes as "missing in action" are not sitting MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Jan 28, 2008 1:33 PM ET
|Five predictions for the World Wide Web that were way, way, way off|
|Why casino workers hate Obamacare|
|4.2 million have signed up for Obamacare as open enrollment nears close.|
|Tesla lashes out at Chris Christie|
|Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac stock hit by proposal to close them|