China Unicom executives said Tuesday the carrier has added one million subscribers since Oct. 30, but only 5,000 of those are for iPhones. The numbers from Unicom Chairman Chang Xiaobing are far less than the 500,000 iPhones Apple had expected to initially sell. The disappointing figures are prompting many to question whether pricing is to blame.
Although Hong Kong’s China Unicom Ltd. President Lu Yimin said the 6,999 yuan ($1,025) price was not too high for the iPhone 3GS, so-called gray market versions cost around $800 locally. The disparity may serve as “an interesting exercise in how to sell an inferior product at a higher price,” Duncan Clark, a Beijing consultant, told Bloomberg.
Friday we wrote about the lackluster opening of iPhone sales in China. citing a Wall Street Journal report describing a Beijing crowd as subdued.
Along with pricing, the iPhone was released in China sans Wi-Fi, although China Unicom hopes to have Wi-Fi back by year’s end. Also a potential sticking point for Chinese sales: competition from RIM and Android-like handsets from China Mobile Ltd., the nation’s largest mobile carrier.
While focus is currently on China Unicom, Apple has been courting China Mobile, which intends to have its own 3G network up and running by the end of 2009.