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These new Apple iPhones are already sold out in China on launch day

Krystal Hu
Reporter

The new Apple iPhones seem to be a hit in its most important foreign market—China. At least some of them.

After the tech giant released its three new iPhones on Thursday, some models have already sold out and customers need to wait for a few weeks for them or buy them from individual sellers at a markup.

Customers who went to Apple (AAPL) stores were told they need a reservation to purchase a new iPhone, and some colors were no longer immediately available. On Apple’s official site, it takes two to three weeks for a new iPhone to ship. On e-commerce platforms like Alibaba’s Tmall and JD.com, where most Chinese consumers who don’t have access to an Apple store would go to order iPhones, the iPhone 11 Pro model in midnight green was out of stock by late Friday.

The two platforms also reported strong sales. Tmall says sales of iPhone 11 series within the first 12 hours exceeded sales on the launch day of new phones last year. JD.com also reported this year’s first-day sales was double what it was last year.

Customers experience iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro at an Apple store on East Nanjing Road on September 20, 2019 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Wang Gang/VCG via Getty Images)

Apple dropped three models at the same time this year, instead of only one first — the iPhone XR — last year. Not every model was met with the same fanfare. The most popular models were the new colors— green and purple iPhone 11 and the midnight green iPhone 11 Pro—according to sellers and online platforms.

The secondary market also spoke to the popularity of some of the phones as unauthorized sellers found opportunities to flip popular models. For the most sought-after iPhone 11 Pro in midnight green, they could add a premium of $100, according to price sheets reviewed by Yahoo Finance.

“If we have inventory, we’ll sell with a markup right now, especially the green one,” said Clarence Chen, a smartphone seller based in Guangzhou. “The price changes every minute. It’ll be like this until Apple has enough inventory.”

Customers queue outside an Apple store to buy the latest iPhone models in Hangzhou in China's eastern Zhejiang province on September 20, 2019. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

One of Apple’s major distributors in China says its 11 Pro model with 512GB storage is already out of stock.

“We have more inventories than last year, but the demand is probably better than Apple expected,” an employee at the distributor told Yahoo Finance.

New iPhone colors entice consumers

The strong initial demand could be a relief for Apple after demand for its iPhone flopped last year in China, the market that contributes one-fifth of Apple’s revenue. Earlier this year, CEO Tim Cook wrote a surprising letter to investors, admitting the lukewarm demand from its Chinese market has harmed Apple’s bottom line. Apple has been slashing prices and promoting trade-in programs to help make iPhones more affordable for Chinese users.

Analysts say Apple has learned its lesson this time by pricing the lower-end iPhone 11 at 5499 yuan ($775), luring more people into the ecosystem. It could also help Apple to compete with Huawei, the local tech giant that dominates over one-third of the smartphone market in China. The eye-catching new colors have also attracted buyers.

“The new colors can spur the desire from consumers,” said Mo Jia, an analyst with research firm Canalys. He cautions that the release this year is not comparable with last year because all of the new models were dropped at the same time. “We need a bit more time to see the real performance of the new iPhones.”

Krystal Hu covers technology and China for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.

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