A woman looks at the new iPhone 5c at MBK in Bangkok.
The new iPhones (5s and 5c if you're counting) were released Friday, September 20 in the US and a few countries beyond American borders. Thailand was not one of those countries so there were no iPhone lines here.
That doesn't mean there were no iPhones here though. It was just a more subdued, less official launch. In what could be called a tribute to globalization, entrepreneurs in MBK, a sprawling mall/market/ entertainment complex in Bangkok, got their hands on iPhone 5s and 5c models in decent quantity and were selling them on Saturday morning, just hours after they went on sale in the US.
I don't know specifically how many phones were available but I do know that a number of shops (more than 10) were selling them and they had a good supply of 5s and 5c models (except for the 5s in gold, which seems hard to find everywhere).
I don't know how they do it or what the supply chain is. How do you get your hands on hundreds of phones, ship them to Thailand and get them into shops less than a day after they've gone on sale in the US? All of this for a product which virtually every unit is sold before it even leaves the factory.
I went to MBK Saturday morning to photograph people buying and looking at iPhones. MBK is always mobbed, every day is Black Friday in this mall. The shops that had the iPhones were busy but not swamped. In most cases you could walk up and buy a phone and be set up with it in minutes. All of the phones in MBK were unlocked. The Thai cell carriers won't get the phones until later this year. The vendors at MBK will even transfer your apps and music for you.
The fly in the ointment is that you really have to want an iPhone to buy one early at MBK. The top of the line 64 gigabyte iPhone 5s was selling for more than 38,000 Baht, more than $1,200 US. That's a lot for a phone, that in the US, costs $850.