Why wait for Apple?

That seems to be the question China's tech-savvy consumers have been asking themselves as reports reveal both real and fake versions of the company's iPad have been selling out across the nation in the past few weeks.

As happened with the iPhone, Apple decided to hold back on handing over its latest gadget to the Chinese market - no official date for the release of the iPad in China has yet been announced - and again, as with the iPhone, Chinese consumers are simply hitting the backstreet electronic markets to find what they want.

China's state-run media has claimed there are thousands of the gadgets being shipped into the country each week - tucked away in people's luggage - and that they are selling for around 10,000 yuan (US$1,470 or 1,133 euros) for the basic 3G-ready model. They retail for US$629 (or 484 euros) on http://www.store.apple.com.

"The 3G iPad are priced at around 2,000 yuan (US$290 or 224 euros) higher than the Wi-Fi-only iPad version. These 3G Mac tablet notebooks are quite expensive and cost from 6,500 yuan (US$950 or 732 euros) to 10,000 yuan (US$1,470 or 1,133 euros)," according to a report in Shanghai's Jiefang Daily newspaper.

And there are fake version littering the markets too, most retailing for around 2,800 yuan (US$410 or 316 euros).

With recent reports showing the majority of China's more than 400 million internet users find their entertainment online, the movie- and game-playing abilities of the iPad would seem a perfect fit.

"What is not to love about it, at least for the Chinese?'' one tech analyst told the China Daily newspaper. "China could be one of its biggest markets.''

And while China waits for its official release date, the country's southern cousins in Hong Kong will only have to wait until July until it hits the stores. But - again - many are in no mood to wait.

"Why wait when all you have to do is either go to a market in China or get a friend to bring one back for you from the US,'' one happy iPad owner from Hong Kong told Relaxnews. "It took ages for the iPhone to come out here but you could see them all over the place before the launch as well. We know how and where to get our goods.''

MS

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