Sellers on Taobao, China's largest e-commerce site, are accepting pre-order payment for Apple's iPhone 5, even though the product is yet to be released – or even formally announced.
Taobao, a part of the Alibaba Group, is allowing its sellers to accept 1,000 yuan (£102) preorder amounts for the hardware, with a seller Computing discovered even offering an upfront purchase amount of 6688 yuan (£679) for a pre-ordered iPhone 5, complete with projected specs.
Some sellers are even providing percentage-based probabilities of certain features appearing as part of the iPhone 5, including a biometric sensor that apparently has a 17 per cent chance of being present when the final product ships.
It might sound far-fetched, but back in 2011, Taobao sellers correctly foresaw the inclusion of a rear-facing camera on the iPad 2 when setting up preorders for the device.
But with Apple not even releasing the third iPad in China until 20 July, it seems unlikely that iPhone 5s will reach China quickly enough, even after release, to meet such lofty preorder promises. According to Reuters, sellers of preordered Apple goods generally have to go over to Hong Kong, which tends to be the first place in China to receive Apple products, or else smuggle them in from further afield.
Meanwhile there is evidence of increasing hostility among the Chinese towards the Apple brand. Grey market vendors have told Chinadaily.com that the third iPad is not innovative enough, and offers little "major improvements" over the previous models. With Apple set to sell the product at an even higher price than imported grey market models, the tablet is not expected to see particularly high demand.
However, with China contributing an estimated 20 per cent - $7.9bn (£5.1bn) - of Apple's revenue during the second fiscal quarter of 2012, the company would be advised to start shipping the real iPhone 5 to China as soon as possible.