Online sellers in China appear to be taking advantage of excitement around Apple's expected iPhone 6 by offering preorders of the phone -- which has yet to be announced.
Several sellers on Alibaba's Taobao, a Chinese consumer-to-consumer e-marketplace similar to eBay, are offering preorders for Apple's iPhone 6, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday. The iPhone 6 is expected to launch in the US later this year, but Apple -- in typical fashion -- has not released any information about its next phone. The Taobao sellers are asking customers to pony up between $80 and $1,288 to guarantee their chance of getting an iPhone 6, reported the Journal.
China is a crucial market for Apple, and just about every other major smartphone company. Apple struck a deal with China Mobile, the world's largest carrier with over 770 million subscribers, to make the iPhone 5S and 5C available in China at the beginning on this year. In total, over 1 billion people in China use a mobile device of some type, according to Chinese officials, and Apple, like Samsung, Xiaomi, and Lenovo want to tap into the huge market.
Over the last few years, sellers on Chinese e-marketplaces have done the same with other Apple devices. Preorders for Apple's iPhone 5 started popping up on Taobao in July 2012, a solid two months before Apple officially announced the phone. It's unclear whether these online sellers can actually fulfill the preorders. Apple often releases devices in China after launching them in the US, making it difficult to guarantee a particular seller can get their hands on the foreign version of the phone. More than 30 sellers on Taobao claim they can help purchase an iPhone 6 from the US and Hong Kong, reported the Journal.
Perhaps more interesting is just how far online sellers are willing to go to get customers to buy into Apple devices. According to the Journal, one online seller claims Apple will announce the iPhone 6 around September 20. The seller also said Apple will launch two models of the iPhone 6, a 4.7- inch and 5.5-inch version, and charge Chinese customers $851 and $964 for those models, respectively.
For its part, Apple has made no indication that anything -- let alone two smartphones -- will be launching this year. Still, Apple's history, and the launch of iOS 8 this fall, suggest the rumored iPhone 6 could be announced in September, with a release date to follow shortly after.
CNET has contacted Apple for comment. We will update this story when we have more information.