China has long been home to a booming illicit "trade" for new iPhones smuggled into the country through ports like Hong Kong or Shanghai. And the iPhone 6 is no exception: Customs officials have reported that hundreds of 6s and 6 Pluses have been confiscated this month.
A story from the AP highlights several big iPhone busts this weekend, including one incident in which which two travelers entering the Shanghai airport. Between them, the duo was packing 432 undeclared iPhone 6s. But many more have been smuggled and confiscated elsewhere, including in this particularly dramatic situation:
Hundreds more were seized during three separate busts Thursday through Saturday in Hong Kong, including from men with a speedboat who were loading contraband onto a wooden sampan-style boat in a mangrove, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
Meanwhile, a 31-year-old smuggler was apprehended at another checkpoint in Hong Kong carrying almost 70 iPhone 6s (and a few iPhone 6 Pluses for good measure) in his or her car, according to a press release from Hong Kong customs.
Image: Hong Kong customs.
In the past, iPhones have been smuggled between Hong Kong and mainland China frequently—because they've sold for significantly less in Hong Kong. One report from 2012 claimed than 3,000 iPhone 4Ss had been seized over two months at a port entry in Shenzhen, with travelers trapping phones to their midsections and ankles.
But this year, the iPhone 6 went on sale in Hong Kong (and the US and other countries) but not in China, where Apple is still awaiting government approval. Which in part helps explain why smugglers are going to great lengths to get them into the country—and why the government is trying to stop them. The New York Times also cites "an intensifying crackdown on corruption" amongst government officials in China as a reason for the busts.
Still, while China's government may not look kindly upon it, there are clearly still plenty of smugglers willing to take the risk. In fact, the NYT even suggests that smugglers may have done their jobs too well—the flood of iPhone 6 devices mean that prices are actually dropping. [AP; The New York Times]
Images: Hong Kong customs.