Apple Resorts to Lottery System for Hong Kong iPhone 4S Reservations

Apple’s latest iPhone 4S is selling like hotcakes in certain Asian countries. The smartphone has grown so popular among smartphone users in China and Hong Kong that the iPhone 4S launch in China two weeks ago had to be postponed due to fights among customers and scalpers in the queue. To help minimize the incidence of scalping, and to prevent crowds from forming up and getting rowdy outside of the Apple Store, Apple is now implementing a lottery system for its Hong Kong iPhone 4S buyers. Are you lucky enough to win the lotto, though?

People queue up outside a Apple Store for the new iPhone 4S in Hong Kong's upscale International Financial Center Mall Friday, Nov. 11, 2011. Apple has recently implemented a lottery system for iPhone 4S reservations in Hong Kong. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

Winning the iPhone 4S lottery doesn’t mean you get the phone for free, though. The system works by letting users sign up for a slot, and interested subscribers will be informed by 9:00 PM if they have “won” a reservation slot, and signups are valid for a three-hour window period each day.

Scalpers Beware

Apple’s new lottery system is brought about mainly by one thing: scalpers. iPhone scalping has been so rampant that these enterprising groups have employed a handful of dirty tricks in getting their hands on Apple’s latest, greatest products. These have reportedly been hiring migrant workers to fall in line and buy iPhones. High-tech scalpers have also setup bots that ping Apple’s servers continuously throughout the day, in order to make reservations.

With the new system, reservations will have to be verified with a government-issued ID, with matching name and number. And because reservations are done during a three-hour window and then raffled off, pinging the server at random intervals will no longer be of any use.

No Walk-Ins

As an additional security measure, Apple is no longer selling iPhones to walk-in clients. Yes, everyone has to go through the same lottery process.

Apple’s announcement, in full:

Due to high demand, we are accepting a limited number of iPhone reservations per day. To request an iPhone reservation, please choose your store and the iPhone you want. If we have an iPhone reservation for you, you’ll receive a confirmation email by 9:00 p.m. tonight that includes the time when you can pick up your iPhone tomorrow. A government-issued photo ID matching the name and ID number on your reservation is required for iPhone purchases. If you don’t receive an email, we were unable to reserve an iPhone for you, and you can try again another time. Only those who receive an email confirming their reservation will be able to purchase an iPhone; we will not be selling iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S to walk-in customers.

Given how crowds have gone wild in recent Apple product launches in China — including the iPad 2 — this makes sense. Apple is likely to use the same system in its upcoming redo of the botched iPhone 4S launch in the mainland. And given how fanatical Apple fans can be in the rest of the world, will a lottery system also work elsewhere?