China Unicom: 5,000 iPhones Sold So Far

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Apple's iPhone may not be selling as fast in China as it has in other countries, but China Unicom did manage to push some 5,000 units out the door during its first week of availability, according to Bloomberg. Currently, China Unicom is up against grey market iPhone sales that in some cases cost less than legit iPhones.

China Unicom's iPhone pricing has been seen my many as a problem for selling handsets. Pricing starts at 4,999 yuan (about US$730) for the 32GB iPhone 3GS and ramps up to 6,999 yuan (about $1,025) depending on which service plan users choose.

Grey market iPhone dealers sell the same handset for about 5,700 yuan (about $835) and include Wi-Fi support. Wi-Fi is missing from the current batch of iPhones China Unicom is selling because of government regulations that were in place when manufacturing began.

The higher prices may have kept the cell carrier from moving as many units as they would've liked, but it didn't stop people from lining up for the official launch a week ago. Lines at the company's flagship store in Beijing were 300 people deep, and shoppers lined up at Apple's store at the Village at Sanlitun, too.

Despite slow sales, Apple is expected to sell up to 460,000 iPhones in China annually.

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Jeff Gamet

5,000 iPhones sold in all of China in a week isn’t a lot. China, however, is a really big country with lots of people, so maybe that will help sales pick up. Once China Unicom gets its hands on iPhones with Wi-Fi built-in, that’ll help, too.


It was my understanding that the government didn’t allow WiFi iPhones. With a million of grey-market, WiFi-enabled iPhones competing with the legitimate WiWi-less models, it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise if the expectations end up unrealistically high.


One would think that China Unicom would be able to put a little subsidy in to the device if it were to sell it with some annual contract. Apparently, developing nations have a problem getting commitment on anything beyond just a few months.

As it stands, it looks like China Unicom wants to put some profit margins on top of Apple’s profit margins, and make serious cash before even collecting ANY money on service.

As it stands, not much should be expected of the iPhone in China.


It sounds like the Chinese government is at fault for crippling the iPhone’s features in the initial launch. Go figure. In the US we pay a premium for what the iPhone can do. There, they pay a premium despite what their government doesn’t allow them to do. Information is power, restricting access to information is the criminal misuse of power.


Maybe the US and China will achieve balanced trade—next year!

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