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Friday, February 03, 2012, 03:12 pm PT (06:12 pm ET)

iPhone 4S sales resume online in China with shipments by March 2

Apple's newest handset returns to the company's Chinese online store following a brief stoppage of sales due to overwhelming demand that led to scalpers and violence, though wait times for orders can range from overnight to weeks.

A report from China Daily on Friday confirms that the iPhone 4S can now be purchased through the online Apple Store in mainland China, bringing an end to the nearly month long moratorium on sales that was instituted almost immediately following the smartphone's Chinese launch.

Apple's Chinese online store has been taking orders since Wednesday, though customers may not be receiving the actual device for some time as current estimates are quoting a ship date of "February."

"If you pay today, you might get the items tomorrow, and no later than March 2," said an Apple sales representative.

In re-opening online orders, Apple has instituted strict sales policies that dissuade scalpers from using bots to gobble up online inventory to be sold on the grey market at inflated prices.

China online Apple Store

Apple renews online sales of the iPhone 4S. | Source: Apple Store


A lottery system was recently introduced in Hong Kong, where lower taxes and limited supply led to a flood of scalpers who repeatedly clashed with customers and each other for a chance to buy the device. The price for a 16 GB iPhone 4S in Hong Kong is HK$5,088 ($660), more than $100 cheaper than the 4,988 yuan ($790) mainland China customers pay for the same handset.

iPhone buyers in Hong Kong must place their online order with a valid government-issued ID between 9am and 12pm, and those who are randomly selected will receive an email by 9pm with instructions on picking up the device at a specific time the following day. Customers not selected are forced to repeat the procedure on a different day.

Apple's new rules limit purchases to two devices per person and it remains to be seen whether the newly instituted rules will reduce the number of units sold through unofficial channels, however some stores are seeing a change.

"Since we began accepting online orders yesterday, not as many people have been hawking iPhones nearby as before," said an employee at the Apple Store in Xidan, Beijing.