Despite Apple’s public pronouncements of success in China, a survey finds 90 percent of consumers don’t use – and don’t like China Unicom, the No. 2 carrier the Cupertino, Calif. company picked to exclusively sell the iPhone.
Fewer than 10 percent of China residents between the age of 22 and 32 use China Unicom, and of that group, most said they disliked the service, according to China Market Research Group, which asked 2,000 mobile phone owners. More than 9 out of 10 people questioned pointed to rival China Mobile as having better coverage and service.
Another factor was the the need to sign two-year contracts for China Unicom’s 3G service. Until recently China had banned devices not using a home-grown version of Wi-Fi, resulting in the iPhone launching with only 3G service.
Unlike in the U.S., where iPhone owners must sign up with AT&T, Apple’s exclusive American carrier, in China, so-called “gray market” iPhones are easily available which can be used on carriers other than China Unicom. Another roadblock, according to the research firm is the heavy use of prepaid phones in China. About eight in ten Chinese use prepaid cell phones instead of signing contracts. That 80 percent group also have no plans to switch to postpaid within the next three years, according to CMR.
Earlier this year, when the Wall Street Journal reported Apple was working on a CDMA iPhone, speculation immediately began the the handset was meant for Verizon, frequently named as a potential second U.S. iPhone carrier. Analysts, however, feel China may be one of the first countries to get the new phone. China’s largest mobile carrier, China Mobile, uses the CDMA transmission technology.