China Telecom (Accidentally?) Offers Peek at New iPhones

Sina Weibo A screenshot of a China Telecom ad for Apple’s new iPhones that was posted on Sina Weibo.

A screenshot of a China Telecom ad for Apple’s new iPhones that was posted on Sina Weibo.

Thursday afternoon, a verified China Telecom Corp. account on Sina Corp.’s Weibo microblog put ouexpected to be announced next week.

The post, which was viewed by The Wall Street Journal, was quickly taken down, but not before many Weibo users took screenshots and spread wt a post advertising advance orders for the iPhone 5S and 5C, the two iPhones that are ord online. The post in part said that China would be one of the first markets to get the new iPhones, and that customers who want to get the phones on the first day possible should follow a link, which led to a preorder page splashed with photos of the new phones. The post added that though no details about the phone have yet been released, what is formally announced by Apple will be what users get.

Though the post itself has been deleted, the link for preorders still functions and now leads to astripped-down landing page that reads in large font “Looking forward to…” and then in smaller red font, “If you have more hope, please leave your name and telephone here.” Though the website does not specifically mention the iPhone, the last part of the URL reads “iphone5s.asp.”

China Telecom, citing a non-disclosure agreement with Apple, declined to comment. Apple representatives were not immediately reachable for comment.

Though it’s unclear whether the release is accidental or an intentional marketing stunt, if true, it certainly represents an important switch in strategy for Apple. In the past, Apple fans in China have had to wait months after the company’s initial product release for new items to go on sale locally. As a result, many wealthier or die-hard fans in China purchase phones brought in from Hong Kong or other markets that get Apple’s new products earlier.

Vendors have complained about this trend, pointing out it can be hard to secure smuggled Apple products, and that they are more expensive and don’t include after-sales services, which can anger customers once the products officially go on sale. And analysts say the long lag in release in China sometimes leads customers waiting on the newest Apple phone to get a handset from a rival company, like Samsung Electronics Co., instead. The long wait can also dull the hype built up by Apple’s annual autumn release events.

Online, some ribbed China Telecom for apparently putting out the post prematurely, but many others were excited for the new release. Still, they may have some waiting time yet. The Chinese government has yet to give a new iPhone the radio and network-access licenses it needs to legally go on sale in China. Usually once carriers like China Telecom get network access approval, the phone goes on sale within the month.

–Paul Mozur

Source: China Real Time Report – WSJ – “China Telecom Weibo Post Suggests Apple’s New iPhone 5S, 5C Will Go on Sale in China Soon”

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