Shenzhen cell phone market: going deeper inside Huaqiangbei
It is protected to say that the majority of our readers are accustomed to telephone outlets which might be nicely lit, pretty spacious, and never peppered with KIRF merchandise. However when you’re feeling adventurous and need to take a dip within the deep finish of the pool, then Shenzhen’s Huaqiangbei district ought to fulfill your unusual curiosity. As we have proven you in our earlier journey, our gadget paradise covers an in depth vary of merchandise, together with telephones, computer systems, cameras, all the best way right down to circuitry elements like LEDs, chips, and resistors. Our newest discovery, nevertheless, is an complete constructing devoted to principally cell phone merchandise. Learn on to seek out out what this insanity is all about — a video tour awaits after the break.
The premises in query is the Yuanwang Digital Mall, which is bang in the midst of Huaqiangbei’s excessive road. In reality, that is proper between the 2 Meizu shops we visited in January. Whereas the identify might sound snazzy to some, Yuanwang’s definitely nothing just like the strange malls that you might have in thoughts. For starters, you are greeted by a comparatively dinky entrance entrance sandwiched between a number of small outlets, thus giving outsiders the phantasm that there is not a lot happening inside. In case you gaze from afar, you may simply mistake the mall as some type of previous workplace constructing — the one indication that claims in any other case is the massive blue signal above the doorway, so be careful for it once you’re on the town.
In line with Yuanwang’s official web site, the mall homes some 30,000 sq. meters of retail area between three flooring, catering over one hundred,000 guests every day whereas retaining over 60 % of China’s cellphone bulk consumers. That is a reasonably daring declare there, however having seen its rivals on the identical road, we’re satisfied that Yuanwang is at the least the most important and busiest cellphone mall within the space.
To be frank, our first few visits to this then-mysterious place have been barely intimidating. Upon stepping by means of the doorway, the very first thing we noticed have been a pair of escalators proper in entrance of us, and above it was a big pink banner that went alongside the strains of “gross sales of counterfeit items are prohibited” — the type of slogans which might be generally displayed round Huaqiangbei. Like most different electronics malls within the space, Yuanwang’s entrance corridor was crammed up with little cubicles promoting each real and shanzhai telephones; nothing extraordinary right here, however we shortly discovered that this was solely the tip of the iceberg. As we walked additional in, we ended up in a smaller corridor that specialised in telephone elements: LCDs, batteries, buttons, housings, and so on. Dotted alongside the outskirts have been principally equipment sellers, and likewise alongside the hall on the opposite aspect however with the addition of a number of restore workshops. From our remark, it appeared that these repairmen took orders from neighboring outlets plus particular person clients, so there was loads of enterprise for them. What amazed us was how these guys might work on these delicate electronics in such a loud and open surroundings, as you possibly can see within the photograph under. Oh, and there isn’t any want for them to go out for refreshments — once in a while you’d stumble upon a woman providing snacks plus drinks, and a few even take orders for decent meal supply.
Issues get a bit wilder on the primary flooring — that is primarily the guts of Yuanwang the place a lot of the buying and selling actions happen, involving a whole lot of tiny cubicles that promote completed merchandise within the bigger halls. Over the previous few weeks we visited the mall throughout totally different durations of the day, and there was by no means a second with out the grating noise of parcel tape being ripped, nor was the ground litter-free. The air was additionally notably worse than the ground under — a part of the nation’s 356 million people who smoke are to be blamed right here, and nobody’s stopping them from taking a puff contained in the crowded constructing. It was obvious that the few air flow ducts weren’t adequate for the spacious halls, however in the event you’re fortunate, the cubicles might change on their little clip-on followers. Not that this made us really feel any higher, thoughts you — the mixture of dangerous air and windowless setting stored us from considering straight, so first-time guests ought to undoubtedly go in pairs simply to be protected.
As soon as we acquired used to the wild scene, we began noticing many acquainted units displayed on the counters. Simply to call a number of: an astonishing variety of iPhone 4s and iPads, many HTC Android telephones (particularly white Want S at one level), a superb mixture of each featurephones and smartphones from Nokia (Symbian^three nonetheless has a robust presence in China), some Motorola Androids right here and there, and a few of the newest Sony Ericsson Androids. As talked about earlier, a lot of the consumers right here decide these units up in bulk for distribution elsewhere — primarily in different elements of China judging by their dialects, although we additionally noticed the odd foreigners (or “laowai,” because the Chinese language name them) together with their interpreters handing over money to the sellers.
So the place do these devices truly come from? Properly, ask any of those sellers they usually’re doubtless to offer you two or three costs for some units, relying on the place they originate. As an example, one sales space provided two variations of the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play: one from Hong Kong, and one from different nations. For the previous, it is doubtless that the devices have been hand-carried throughout the Hong Kong-Shenzhen border checkpoints, however this requires a bit of labor. In line with a current investigation by TVB’s Information Journal, the runners or scalpers work in teams to smuggle within the units and bins individually, as a way to dodge the ten % import obligation enforced by the Chinese language border management. As soon as the fortunate people attain mainland China, they regroup, repackage the units, after which move them on to their sellers to be able to gather their soiled cash.
Talking of which: every runner will get as much as HK$one hundred (US$thirteen) per iPhone or iPad, for instance; however we’re not totally positive how the ultimate revenue is cut up between the unique scalper and the outlets at Huaqiangbei — all we all know is that presently these Apple units are bought for between HK$300 (US$forty) and HK$seven hundred (US$ninety) larger than their retail costs. Clearly, this will get extra difficult with imports from abroad (often Europe). These aren’t precisely big numbers, however some runners have gone so far as strapping a number of units beneath their clothes and inside their sandals to, uh, maximize their revenue per run — take a look on the M.I.C. Gadget hyperlink under and you will see what we imply.
Naturally, not all units there have been model new. We caught some outlets repackaging what have been presumably refurbished telephones, in addition to sticking new labels onto elements and equipment. We’re usually cool with shopping for refurbished items to save lots of a couple of pennies, however right here in Huaqiangbei, you must know the sport with a view to keep away from being scammed. That stated, it isn’t that onerous as soon as you’ve got explored the location a couple of occasions — these guys simply do it in entrance of you. Hell, we even watched a lady rigorously making use of pretend AT&T-stamped labels onto pretend iPhone 3GS packing containers, whereas chatting with us concerning the then-lacking white iPhone four.
However this is what actually frightened us: a few of the cubicles have been peeling previous labels off used telephone batteries to placed on new ones, whereas the others have been slapping shiny “QC accredited” stickers onto “SanDisk” microSD playing cards. Frankly talking, each sightings instantly killed our gadget lust on the spot. On one hand, it is somewhat hilarious that each one of this occurred proper in entrance of our eyes; however wanting from the opposite aspect, it makes you marvel who might assure the reliability of those random elements, what number of of those find yourself on eBay, and whether or not the telephones have been decide-pocketed within the first place.
Sufficient with the downer; let’s transfer on to the brighter, quieter prime flooring. In contrast to the 2 ranges under, right here we’ve only a assortment of closed cubicles — a mix of primarily shanzhai telephone distributors and some restore outlets. To be trustworthy, the huge vary of telephones provided right here weren’t as thrilling as we had anticipated — most have been simply cheesy handsets with resistive touchscreens, however hey, apparently there’s nonetheless a marketplace for them someplace on this planet. For what it is value, we have observed just lately that a few of these dust low cost units are beginning to attraction to the older era in Hong Kong, and we guess they promote even higher in different elements of Asia and the Center East. Not that we noticed any overseas consumers right here, thoughts you; although audacious merchants might be dealing remotely. Nicely, you possibly can rely us out right here: having seen a number of the nasty work on this constructing, we might a lot quite examine the products earlier than handing over our arduous-earned money.Wrap-up
There’s just one phrase that may really mirror our first impression upon getting into this constructing: “wow.” And in case you do not thoughts, we will reuse this phrase to sum up our whole Yuanwang expertise. Merely put, we will not think about one other place that homes such a singular property — an enormous heaven for the true gadget geeks, and a marketplace for these in search of unique toys to take residence. In fact, this is not precisely the cleanest and sincerest place on the earth, however this is hoping that our journey will hold potential guests properly ready for the cultural shock.
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