Apple’s iPhone 6 clears hurdles in China, to hit mainland Oct. 17

Chinese authorities display illegal iPhone 6 phones in Shenzhen on Sept 23.
Chinese authorities display illegal iPhone 6 phones in Shenzhen on Sept 23.
(ChinaFotoPress / Getty Images)

Chinese consumers may be able get their hands on Apple’s iPhone 6 as early as Oct. 17, after the company secured regulatory approval from Chinese government.

“We are thrilled to bring iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus to our customers in China on all three carriers at launch,” Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook said in a statement released Tuesday. When Cook unveiled the company’s latest generation of smartphone in early September, mainland China was not among the first group of nations where the device went on sale Sept. 19.

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, China’s telecommunications regulator, cited security risks with iPhone 6 as the reason that caused the delay in approving a proper license for the device to be sold in the country, the agency said in a statement on its website.

“During our review, press reports accused Apple’s iOS of having 3 backdoor programs that can leak personal data,” the agency’s statement said. “An authoritative testing agency in China confirmed those [security] risks for us.”


The agency said it summoned Apple representatives and requested an explanation. After receiving assurance from Apple that the three programs are just diagnostic tools and that the company “would never ever establish a backdoor for any government agencies in the world,” the telecommunications regulator said it issued a license to Apple that allows iPhone 6 to be sold in China.

Apple will start taking pre-orders from Chinese consumers through its online store on Oct. 10. The basic 16GB model of iPhone 6 will go for $860 and the larger screen iPhone 6 plus starts at $990.

The initial delay of the iPhone’s launch in China has created a huge demand for the device in the gray market, where the price was driven up to $2,580. Chinese scalpers stormed Apple stores from New York to Sydney, trying to cash in by reselling the phones. Last week, two rival groups of scalpers even engaged in a fistfight at an Apple outlet near Yale University, leading to the arrest of three members of the two groups, Bloomberg reported.

Meanwhile, Chinese authorities have stepped up efforts to crack down on smuggled iPhones. A man was arrested at a border checkpoint in Shenzhen for hiding eight iPhones in three sets of underwear he wore, and local customs officials confiscated more than 2,000 iPhone 6s in five days, the Guangzhou-based Southern Metropolis Daily reported last week. Customs officials in Hong Kong confiscated 138 iPhone 6s in their latest bust, local media in Hong Kong reported.

Although the official launch of the iPhone in China may help bring down the device’s price on the gray market, it’s still very difficult to stop scalpers from trying to smuggle the device from neighboring Hong Kong, where the iPhone 6 is sold at least $140 cheaper.

But with pro-democracy protesters continuing to flood the streets of Hong Kong, many users on the Chinese social media website Weibo questioned the government’s timing of issuing a license for the iPhone 6.

“To prevent us from going to Hong Kong ... to buy an iPhone and see something they don’t want us to see, Chinese authorities issued a license for the iPhone 6,” a popular commentator by the moniker alibuybuy wrote in a post on Weibo.

Tommy Yang in the Times’ Beijing bureau contributed to this report.