Buying an iPhone in Shanghai
25 Aug 2008
The first time I went to Xujiahui looking for iPhones, I didn’t have much luck. All the shops told me they didn’t carry 水货 (smuggled goods). Later, Brad tipped me off about exactly where to go in the computer market, and when I actually bought the iPhone about a week ago, the iPhone seemed to be for sale everywhere.
The place to buy the iPhone in the Xujiahui computer market is B1 (don’t waste your time upstairs). There are actually two computer markets in Xujiahui (both accessible from the subway); both are selling the iPhone in B1. I recommend the one connected to the big glass globe; there’s more selection/competition. The iPhone 3G can be found, but it’s quite expensive. I didn’t pay much attention to its selling price because the iPhone’s new 3G capabilities are useless in China. Instead, I sought out the original iPhone. The 8 GB version can be bought for around 4000 RMB, and the 16 GB version for 5000+ RMB. I opted for the former.
It can be confusing shopping for the iPhone because of the disparity in vendor prices, and when you try to find out why, you get all kinds of stories. I didn’t see anything that looked like a knock-off, but you definitely have to make sure that the iPhone is undamaged and comes with everything it’s supposed to.
My employer, Praxis Language, is a leader in the field of mobile language learning, so it strongly encourages key employees (in the form of a nice subsidy) to get iPhones. I bought mine with some co-workers on a “company field trip,” and we tried to get a 团购 (“group shopping”) discount. I was quoted a price as low as 3500 per iPhone by one vendor, but we ended up paying 3900 per and going with a vendor that seemed more trustworthy. A telling exchange:
> Me: Your iPhones are all opened.
> Him: Yeah, we have to open them.
> Me: But that shop over there sells them unopened.
> Him: They just re-shrink-wrap them. If you want me to, I can re-shrink-wrap one for you too.
This kind of candor sold us on the vendor. He was also happy to provide all the following services:
– Upgrade iPhone firmware from 1.4 to 2.0
– Unlock/jailbreak the iPhone (so we can use it with China Mobile, and run third party apps)
– Install latest version of Cydia (installer service for third party apps)
– Put on a free screen protector (and also throw in a free case)
Altogether we bought six iPhones. I was the only one that found a defect; I got a phone with a scratched screen. The vendor tried to downplay the defect at first, but gave into my demand to replace the phone even after I had paid.
Overall, a pretty good consumer experience. The iPhones you buy in China obviously don’t come with Apple support or hardware warranties, but if you find a good vendor you can go back to them for help dealing with firmware issues.
Let me know if you have any questions about the experience. I was initially somewhat wary of buying 水货, but the company subsidy was just the push I needed. After learning a lot about the iPhone in the past week, I’m quite pleased with the purchase and with the iPhone’s functionality in China, even despite a recent iTunes Stores block.