Chinese consumers offered double-priced Apple Vision Pro mixed reality headsets in grey market ahead of official launch

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Chinese consumers offered double-priced Apple Vision Pro mixed reality headsets in grey market ahead of official launch

A grey market for Apple’s Vision Pro mixed reality headset is emerging in China, with resellers doubling the official price to lure enthusiasts ahead of its official release next month.

Dozens of merchants are offering to ship supplies of the gadget from the US to China after the official February 2 launch date, provided buyers are willing to pay doubled the official price, according to a search on Xianyu app, a popular online flea market owned by Alibaba Group Holding, owner of the Post.

The headset, initially only available in the US, is available for pre-order at US$3,499, US$3,699 and US$3,899, for the 256 gigabyte, 512 GB and 1 terabyte versions, respectively. After the US release, Apple plans to introduce the product to China, the United Kingdom and Canada, according to Bloomberg News.

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The resellers, known as Daigou in Chinese, will travel overseas to bring back hard-to-get luxury goods at a marked up price, including a hefty up-front deposit. The market for Daigou products, mainly luxury items imported for customers in China, grew nearly 19 per cent 685 billion yuan in 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic stifled international travel, according to market researcher iiMedia.

But cross-border sales resumed after China lifted strict border controls early last year, and Daigou were able to travel again. Border control authorities last year processed 210 million entries into China, including returning Chinese nationals, according to the National Immigration Administration. But the figure was 37 per cent lower than that in 2019.

With the launch of the high-priced headsets, Apple is seeking to diversify its revenue sources after a slight drop in sales during its last financial year that ended September. The US tech giant raked in US$383 billion in annual sales, with the iPhone accounting for more than half that amount.

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Although Facebook owner Meta Platforms and Chinese brands like Pico have been making virtual reality (VR) devices for years with limited success, analysts believe Apple’s entry will reignite the market.

The VR industry is “at a critical point in its short history”, said Ramon Llamas, research director for mobile devices and AR/VR at market intelligence IDC. “Apple’s entry [in 2024] will bring much needed attention to a small market, but it will also force other companies to compete in different ways”.

Although the past year saw a decline in AR/VR headset shipments, IDC forecasts growth of nearly 47 per cent this year thanks to new launches such as Vision Pro.

However, some players have retreated given weak demand. Pico, the world’s second-largest VR brand and a subsidiary of TikTok owner ByteDance, initiated a new round of job cuts late last year. ByteDance reportedly cancelled the next-generation Pico 5 model, after sales of the Pico 4 “fell far short of ByteDance’s expectations”, according to a December report by US media The Information. The company said that it remains committed to the industry over the long term.

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