Oh, what a difference a new handset and some heavy-duty subsidies make. China Unicom has sold 100,000 iPhone 4s in the first four days of availability, up drastically from the tepid 5,000 iPhone 3G customers when Apple first entered the market in 2009.
According to China’s People’s Daily, China Unicom sold 40,000 iPhone 4s on the first day with 200,000 preorders filed with Apple’s current exclusive provider in the Asian giant. The 100,000 customers who preordered Apple’s latest handset and have yet to receive iPhones will get units by the end of next month, according to the carrier.
So, what’s behind the upswing in demand? There appears to be two schools of thought. “The sales of previous versions of iPhones created a solid foundation for the explosive performance of the iPhone 4 this year,” China Unicom senior vice-president Li Gang said.
Then there are all the subsidies. Customers pay nothing for a 16GB iPhone 4 if they agree to a two-year contract and a $43 per month data plan, according to the carrier.
Meanwhile, demand for the new iPhone in China has bred handset scalpers. At some locations, such as Apple’s flagship Beijing store, scalpers were offering the same 16GB iPhone for $795 – a 10 percent markup on its official price tag.