With Apple Inc. having delayed the release of the white iPhone 4 until March next year, the NYC teenager, making thousands of dollars by selling a converter kit that turns a black iPhone 4 into white one, is now receiving legal threats.
The much sought-after white iPhone 4 has been delayed twice by Apple Inc. “White models of Apple’s new iPhone 4 have proven more challenging to manufacture than expected, and as a result they will not be available until the second half of July,” the company said in June. In October, Apple delayed it again until March next year.
So, when 17-year-old computer geek from Queens, Fei Lam, discovered he could get one directly from the factory he took matters into his own hands. The New York teenager, who speaks fluent Chinese, managed to make contact with Apple’s Chinese supplier, Foxconn.
Using his contacts in China, Lam ordered in legitimate white iPhone 4 parts directly from the factory and then re-sold them as DIY conversion kits for $279 each to Apple fans to upgrade their phones.
“I made $8,000 so far today,” he says, attributing the skyrocketing sales on WhiteiPhone4Now.com to the news that he’s already sold $130,000 worth of parts.
Since the story went viral this week, his site has been overloaded with new customers: It received more than 130,000 views yesterday alone. While Lam wouldn’t confirm exact figures, he did say his revenue was between $100,000 and $130,000. And profits were between $30,000 to $40,000.
Publicity from several leading technology websites such as CNN Money, TechCrunch.com and CNET have seen his sales take off.
“I’m very thankful, cause for months I was struggling for an idea that would bootstrap my first startup and help pay for college,” Lam said in the interview.
But the media buzz is a gift and a curse. Several days ago, Lam received a letter from a private investigator, which claimed that Lam is the focus of an investigation regarding the sale of stolen Apple white iPhone parts.
The PI works for an anti-counterfeit and trademark protection firm, and the letter threatened a possible criminal investigation if Lam did not call.
“Nothing is stolen – that’s why I was confused when the PI said I was selling stolen parts,” says Lam, before launching into a description of his supplier.
According to Lam, he first came in contact with “his guy” after receiving a spam message hawking Apple replacement parts. He decided to reply to the message on a whim, and soon began talking with his future supplier about the parts.
Months later, Lam says, he learned his contact used to work at Foxconn, and still has friends there, although Lam is clear that only “some parts are from Foxconn” and that “nothing illegal was done behind the scenes.”
When I asked Lam why he would trust a person he met through a spam message and why he would ever agree to send that person money, Lam could only say his contact seemed “really nice.”
That’s not to say Lam isn’t worried about potential consequences of importing the parts. “For sure I’m stressed about the legal issues – I have contacted a lawyer,” he says. “I’ve not told my family.”
But in the meantime, as Lam says, “business is still in operation.” He says he started the site to earn money to study at the New York University and study computer science or business.
Apple’s white iPhone has been one of the most eagerly-anticipated gadget launches in recent years – even though it is nothing more than a different coloured fascia.
Apple has never said exactly why the white iPhone has been so troublesome to produce. The company has only said the white model was ‘more challenging to manufacture than we originally expected.’
Rumours about the white iPhone have been on Apple-focused blogs for months, with explanations ranging from colour-matching problems to an issue with the device’s backlight. [WhiteiPhone4Now via DailyMail (UK) and Sydney Morning Herald and Fast Company]