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Signs point to iPhone 6 driving record sales for Apple in China, India

During its quarterly earnings call later this month, Apple is expected to announce record-breaking holiday iPhone sales bolstered by unprecedented demand for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus in major emerging markets China and India, new evidence suggests.

Prospective iPhone 6 buyers in Hong Kong — a special administrative region of China that functions essentially as a separate country —  face weeks of waiting to procure a new handset from Apple, according to Forbes. One Apple Store employee told the publication that customers had spent as long as two months attempting to reserve an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus through the company's online reservation system.

The reservation system was implemented in part to prevent resellers from purchasing devices in Hong Kong and smuggling them to mainland China, which levies a relatively large luxury tax on such purchases. An Apple ID and a Hong Kong-based mobile phone number are required to sign up, with photo identification required to claim the reservation.

Such electronic bootlegging remains popular, however. One man was arrested on Monday while trying to cross the border into China with 94 iPhones strapped to his body, and a veritable army of resellers routinely pack the sidewalk outside of Apple's Causeway Bay retail store.

A man tried to smuggle 94 iPhones from Hong Kong to mainland China under his clothes.
A man tried to smuggle 94 iPhones from Hong Kong to mainland China under his clothes.

These resellers primarily serve the more than 70 million mainland Chinese citizens who visit Hong Kong each year. Despite Apple's efforts to triple its retail presence in the People's Republic —  Monday also marked the opening of Apple's 13th store in China, in the country's 24th-largest city —  Chinese consumers still find iPhones scarce, a good sign for Apple as China's moneyed middle class continues to expand.

iPhone sales in India are also on the rise. One analysis, corroborated by Apple partners in the region, suggests that the company sold more than 500,000 iPhones in India between October and December, compared to just 1 million for the preceding 9 months.

Though those numbers represent only a small fraction of Apple's worldwide iPhone sales, which are expected to have reached nearly 70 million over the holidays, they show significant progress in India. Despite a population that tops 1.2 billion, India remains one of the poorest countries in the world — its nominal per-capita GDP of just $1,509 is far below China's $6,959 and barely outpaces that of war-torn nations like South Sudan, according to data from the International Monetary Fund.