Apple iPhone 5S, 5C Offered for Preorder by China Carrier. Oops.

Marketing stunt or extreme goof-up? China Telecom made the iPhone 5S and 5C available for preorder Sept. 5, then quickly reneged the offer.

If the world needed any more proof that Apple plans to introduce iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C smartphones Sept. 10, China Telecom Corp. offered it Sept. 5.

The carrier posted an advertisement on Sina Corp.'s Weibo—a sort of Twitter meets Facebook in China—enticing consumers to preorder the new iPhones, the Wall Street Journal reported Sept. 6.

The Journal viewed the post, which was quickly taken down, but not before countless Weibo users snapped screenshots and spread the news. The post was replaced—though a portion of the URL was still "iphone5a.asp"—with a simplified landing page and the words, "If you have more hope, please leave your name and telephone here."

Apple traditionally introduces its new iPhones in the United States and releases them to China, with other non-key markets, months later. Last year, the iPhone 5 was introduced Sept. 12 and went on sale in the U.S. the Sept. 24 weekend, but didn't arrive in China until December.

This year, that's changing. The iPhone 5C, it has been widely reported, will be a less expensive version of the iconic device and more in line with the price points favored by Chinese consumers. It's also said that the iPhone will be compatible with China Mobile's new 4G network, enabling the carrier—the largest in the world—to finally officially offer the iPhone. (Thousands of unlocked iPhones already run on it, albeit at slower-than-ideal speeds.)

Apple's investments in China are increasing, and so is its revenue. Apple CEO Tim Cook remarked during a January visit to China, according to the Xinhua news agency, "China is currently our second-largest market. I believe it will become our first. I believe strongly that it will."

On Sept. 4, Apple sent invitations to members of the U.S. media, inviting them to a Sept. 10 event at its headquarters in Cupertino, Calif.

Then, in one of the few surprises Apple has been able to pull off lately, it sent members of the Chinese media invitations to a Sept. 11 event in Beijing.

"Chinese media have received an unexpected invitation to [a Chinese event]. It is rare," Sina reported Sept. 4, according to Google Translate. "Even more surprising is that the conference venue [location is] the Beijing International Trade [Center], which means that Apple will hold a press conference [specifically for China]."

The slogan on the invitation, roughly translated, is "This day is destined to be a dazzling one."

The U.S. invites read: "This should brighten everyone's day."

Both feature a white Apple logo over a series of overlapping, colorful dots—suggesting perhaps that, as rumored, the iPhone 5C will come in a variety of colors.

While the beans-spilling Weibo post may have been a mistake, the Journal suggests it may also have been a marketing stunt, meant to assure Chinese consumers that the new iPhones will arrive soon and dissuade the practice of smuggling new iPhones to China before they're officially released there.

"Vendors have complained about this trend, pointing out it can be hard to secure smuggled Apple products, and that they are more expensive and don't include after-sales services, which can anger customers once the products officially go on sale," reported the Journal.

It added that, according to analysts, consumers sometimes give up on waiting for the iPhone and instead buy smartphones from Apple rivals, like Samsung, and that by the time the phones arrive in China, much of the initial hype has dissipated.

The iPhone 5C is reportedly intended for not only China but India and other emerging markets where prepaid wireless service is the prevailing strategy.

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