China Unicom announced
today that it has signed a deal with Apple that will give it a
three-year exclusive on the iPhone. DailyTech previously
reported that the Chinese
iPhone would lack Wi-Fi and that caveat has proven to be true.
The big problem with that for China Unicom is that the iPhone is
already available through importers in China with Wi-Fi enabled.
iPhones will officially go on sale in China in Q4 2009 and Unicom
says that it will not share revenue with Apple. This is a big change
for Apple; the other exclusive partners share revenue with Apple as
part of their exclusive deal.
Unicom will buy the handsets
from Apple at wholesale prices and resell them to subscribers with
some sort of subsidy. Unicom officials didn’t elaborate on what the
sales price for the devices will be or what the subsidy will amount
to. Previous rumors pegged the price Unicom was paying at $439 per
iPhone, but that is unconfirmed.
Chinese research firm BDA
China Ltd estimates that there may be 1.5 million iPhones already in
use in China so the official handset will face stiff competition from
itself and other devices set to hit the market this year. The other
devices include new handsets from HTC and others.
licensed 3G spectrum and will begin rolling out the 3G networks in
China in September. Grey market iPhones
sell for $680 in China reports the Wall Street Journal, so
pricing may be an issue for consumers looking to get an official
iPhone in Q4.