Scalpers cash in as iPhone 4 sells out in China

US high-tech giant Apple has sold out of the iPhone 4 in China less than a week after launching the trendy smartphone on the mainland, creating a flourishing market for scalpers, state media reported.

More than 200,000 iPhone 4s were snapped up within days of going on sale while waiting lists stretch to the end of October, the China Daily newspaper reported Wednesday, citing Apple’s mobile operator partner China Unicom.

Apple was forced to temporarily close one of its stores in Beijing on the same day after arguments reportedly broke out between scalpers and Apple store customers frustrated at missing out on the handsets.

Earlier in the week, scalpers were scooping up several iPhone 4s at a time, suggesting Apple’s restrictions of two smartphones per person were not being enforced, the China Economic Daily reported on its website Thursday.

Scalpers outside Apple’s two stores in the capital were then offering the iPhone 4s to desperate customers for 300-600 yuan (45-90 dollars) more than the official price, the report said.

One scalper, who had bought six iPhone 4s, told the newspaper he was selling the 16-gigabyte version, which has wireless Internet capability, for 5,600 yuan compared with the official price of 4,999 yuan.

The 32-gigabyte smartphone sells for 5,999 yuan, Apple has said.

The phone made its debut in China on September 25, just a week after Apple officially launched the iPad in the country, with some customers queuing for several days to get their hands on the tablet computer.

Both products have been available for several months on China’s grey market, which has been booming thanks to great demand for Apple goods.

The earlier version of the iPhone only officially went on sale in China in October — more than two years after its US launch.

China has at least 420 million web users and is also the world’s largest mobile market with more than 800 million subscribers as of the end of June, according to official data.