The HK iPhone 4 hunt

By: Jidi Guo
On: April 24, 2011
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About Jidi Guo
I'm Jidi, I was born in China and at the early age of 4 I moved to the Netherlands with my mother, aunt and grandmother. Lived in Hoorn until I turned 18 and then moved to Amsterdam to study, live on my own, explore big city life. Now four years later I finished my BA in Communication Science and started a MA in New Media. Future plans are living in China for a year or so to learn proper Mandarin and after that who knows..?


Arriving in Hong Kong felt a little weird for me, as frequent mainland visitor with Chinese origin. It was a like coming home, but this time home was a bit off. Now after a couple of days I realize that Hong Kong is in many ways like a European city, only with loads of Chinese people, and smellier streets. As for the purpose of my trip I’m doing research on mobile internet in China. So one of the first things that struck me, while riding one of the best subway I’ve ever been in, was the number of people eyes-locked to the screen of their mobile phones. Here a mobile phone is not one that only supporting and texting but most people own a smartphone. After a little research on the web it soon became clear to me that Hong Kong has more cellphones than people. No wonder they have such a prominent position in the Hong Kong streets. Riding up and down the subway observing others interaction with their smartphones I noticed that the best represented device was the iPhone 4. Every time some pulled an iPhone 4 out of their pocket or purse I became more convinced that I really needed one myself. Justification went through my current ownership over an iPhone 3 that has become far outdated. Also the price difference of around 150€ for an unlocked device made me want it even more. There was no way back, I was going to buy my own iPhone 4 in Hong Kong.

Unfortunately this was way easier said than done. At the first store they told me the iPhone 4 was sold out. The second one I visited only had the 32GB in stock and since I’d rather have more money in my account than storage room on my phone I decided not purchase this one. Three days, 20 something shops later, there’s one conclusion: Hong Kong is out of iPhone 4 16GB. If you as much as look at the device on display in the busier streets in Hong Kong a salesperson will immediately clarify the situation with the next two words: no stock. After the failed attempts I realized where all the iPhone 4’s have gone, to all the people holding them in the subway. It is nice to see how well the wifi provision is, aside from the unprotected networks that can be found a lot of shopping malls, coffee shops and libraries provide free wifi hotspots. Even the bus from the airport has its own free wifi hotspot for their passengers. For tourists who don’t carry a laptop or smart phone around this unfortunately means that there are few Internet cafes to be found in the streets. I’m not quite sure which came first, just like the chicken-egg story, but I’m pretty sure that there is a causality between the high connectivity of Hong Kong and me missing out on the cities’ must have piece of technology.

The second option was ordering at the Apple online store, with the pre-specified delivery time of 1-2 business days. After placing the order, the delivery time magically changed to 2-3 business days later, 1 day due to the Easter holiday and the other 1-2 remain unclear. I won’t be longer than a week in Hong Kong so this option won’t work either. Order cancelled. But I wouldn’t be Chinese if I just gave up on the things that I want. Luckily I know this guy who bought a big stash of iPhone 4’s in Hong Kong and brought them back to the mainland to sell for a higher price. So, I guess the guy who will bring me salvation in the end is the cause of the shortage problem in the first place. Hopefully it will all work out in the end and the obstacles between me and my phone will disappear. I’ll keep you updated.

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