The latest version of Apple's iPhone is on sale in Beijing's electronic stores and luxury hotels, months before the official launch of the trendy smartphone in China, state media said on June 29.

Privately imported iPhone 4s are available in the capital for as much as 17,000 yuan (US$2,500), the China Daily said. That compares to a starting retail price in the United States of $199.

Vendors were confident customers would pay the hefty mark-up as the iPhone 4, which boasts high-definition video, video chat and sharper screen resolution, is not expected to be officially launched in China for at least another six months, the paper said.

"The iPhone 3G which I am using now can greatly satisfy my needs, but it is still good to have the latest one. It is fashion," Zhao Zhan, 24, told the English-language newspaper.

Fans mobbed stores last week when Apple launched the iPhone 4 in Europe, Japan and the United States. The California-based company says it sold 1.7 million iPhone 4s in the three days after its launch on June 24.

China's grey market in Apple products has been developing for years to satisfy demand for the iPhone, which only officially went on sale in China in October -- more than two years after its U.S. debut.

China Unicom, the only Chinese telecom operator that offers the iPhone in the world's largest cellphone market, has said it is in talks with Apple to sell the 4G handset and the iPad.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010