Cambodians Paying Almost Double for iPhone 5 Amid High Demand

Cambodian customers eager to buy Apple Inc.’s newest iPhone are paying almost double the company’s asking price in other countries, phone vendors in Phnom Penh said yesterday.

At about a dozen phone shops near Phnom Penh’s Central Market, vendors were doing a steady trade in the iPhone 5 at $1,100 for the cheapest, 16-gigabyte model, which retails for about $200 with a mobile operator contract in the U.S., $770 in Singapore and $855 in the U.K.

“If you want to buy this in the U.S., you have to wait many days in line. Here, you can just walk into my shop and buy,” said Dy Leng, manager of Apsara Mobile, which is selling the iPhone 5 at $1,100 for 16GB, $1,250 for 32GB and $1,350 for 64GB.

Mr. Leng said he has sold mostly 64GB models since the smartphone went on sale at his shop on Saturday, though he declined to say just how many he had sold.

The iPhone 5 was released in the U.S. on September 21.

Apple has only six authorized resellers in Cambodia that distribute the U.S. technology giant’s products, but it is usually months after their initial release that new products find their way to those shops. But such products exclude the mighty iPhone, which has never officially gone on sale in Cambodia, and most iPhones purchased abroad need to be “cracked,” or unlocked, to be used with one of Cambodia’s mobile operators.

IPhones are locked when customers enter contracts with service providers in countries where the smartphone is purchased, and the only way to switch operators is by “unlocking” the phone’s software.

In addition to the U.S., Apple so far has only officially released the iPhone 5 in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and the U.K.

Mr. Leng said that he got his stock of iPhones from the U.S.

“We got these iPhones from a distributor here who bought them in the U.S. They sell them to me and I resell them. They make a profit of about $400,” he said, though he declined to name the distributor. He added that local customer demand for the smartphone is “soaring.”

Even Prime Minister Hun Sen can’t wait to get his hands on one.

During a graduation ceremony speech Tuesday on Phnom Penh’s Koh Pich, Mr. Hun Sen asked his audience of graduating students, “Is the iPhone 5 in Cambodia yet? Does one of you have it? I want to try it.”

Of the 14 phone shops surrounding Central Market, all but two had the new iPhone for sale.

“I’ve owned every iPhone since the first one, and this one will be the fastest and the best,” said Khum Puth Sieha, 32, who paid $1,100 cash at Hakse phone shop for a 16GB iPhone 5 yesterday.

“I’m OK with paying the higher price because I don’t have to stand in line for days to get it.”

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