While fanbois around the world waited in line for their shiny new iToys a Japanese gang spent the early hours nicking all the iPhones they could find from three Osaka stores.
Officials aren't saying that the robberies are related, but the Wall Street Journal reports that at two of the locations three chaps were seen, and the timing works. The miscreants were in and out of each store in less than five minutes, even stripping the window displays and leaving only a handset or two where they'd been in a drawer.
The goods are said to be valued at almost £60,000, but one has to wonder how long the thieves will remain on the loose after stealing one of the most traceable products in the world.
They didn't get SIMs, according to (Japanese language) Nikkie, and as the iPhone 5 is the only handset which requires the latest nano SIM operators will be on the lookout for customers suddenly requesting such a SIM.
Japanese operators also make use of the global IMEI blacklist, a database of stolen handsets listed by serial number (IMEI) and run by the GSMA. That list prevents a stolen handset being used on any participating network unless the IMEI can be changed (technically difficult, but not impossible) or the goods can be moved to a non-participating country (technically easy, eminently practical).
America isn't a participating country, though it should be by the end the year, but China is a lot closer to Japan and has a thirst for iPhones which Hong Kong can't satisfy. No Chinese operator is selling the iPhone 5, so Chinese fanbois are dependent on smuggled handsets, and if they happen to have been stolen before being smuggled that would probably bring the price down too.
Hitting the stores hours before opening was audacious, but at least they didn't try the flagship Tokyo shop where they'd have had to work around 750 eager shoppers who'd lined up overnight to get their hands on the device. ®