Chinese resellers betting big — and early — on next iPhone

If you thought iPhone mania may have already reached its peak, well, think again. And read this story from Reuters. It’s reporting that resellers in China are already advertising the iPhone 5(s AAPL) for sale — before Apple has even acknowledged the device’s existence.
From the report:

Sellers on Taobao, a unit of Alibaba Group, are accepting orders for the iPhone 5, in some cases asking for a deposit of 1,000 yuan ($160) for the new phone. One seller, “Dahai99888”, who started accepting pre-orders this week, is asking for full payment upfront, at a cool 6,999 yuan ($1,100).

Taobao is China’s eBay(s EBAY), the most popular place to resell stuff online. The resellers quoted in the story say they planned to procure the next-generation iPhones after the official product launch — which is expected sometime this fall — either in China or Hong Kong.
This is obviously a terrible idea for consumers — placing an order with a random reseller online who has no assurance the product even exists or when it will arrive.
And Apple’s got to be at least a little bit pleased by this episode. Like the near-riots at the iPhone 4S launch in January, this is yet another demonstration of the demand for the iPhone in China — even one that hasn’t been publicly introduced, priced or timed for delivery.