RealTime IT News

iPhone China Sales Not That Bad After All

Sales of Apple's iPhone in China are picking up. Officials at China Unicom have confirmed in several reports that the company has sold more than 100,000 iPhones in the 40 days since it began offering the popular mobile device in late October.

That's the first official sales figure heard from the company since a few days after launch, when it reported only 5,000 had been sold.

Further confusing matters this week, Marbridge Consulting originally reported Tuesday that 10,000 iPhones had been sold, but later admitted that a translation error had omitted a zero from the figures.

The blog iPhonAsia reported that China Unicom Chairman and CEO Chang Xiaobing was bullish about the iPhone's prospects in China during a media interview. "iPhone will become China's best-selling smartphone," Chang said.

Early reports noted the high price of the iPhone in China, but the CEO said those stories failed to note that subsidies are available for consumers who buy the phone as part of a contract. Some eight different subscription plans are available he said. One premium plan reduces the cost of the iPhone to zero, though the monthly call and data plans are very high.

Without a contract, China Unicom and its distribution partners charge from $730 for the 8GB 3G model to $1,000 for the 32GB iPhone 3GS.

Another drawback is that the iPhones sold by China Unicom are stripped of Wi-Fi functionality to comply with government regulations.

Also, the iPhone faces both homegrown and U.S. competition in China. Last month, Dell (NYSE: DELL) announced plans to partner with China Mobile to offer a Dell Mini3 smartphone based on Google's Android platform.

China Unicom said earlier reports that the operator had signed a three-year deal with Apple for 5 million iPhones were "not entirely accurate," but declined to provide any forecast or figures, according to Marbridge Consulting.

The stakes in the Chinese mobile market are high, as China's smartphone production in 2010 will reach 30.2 million, compared to 21.2 million in 2009 -- an increase of 42.5 percent, almost triple the 15 percent growth rate in the overall global market, according to research firm iSuppli.

The stakes in the Chinese mobile market are high, as China's smartphone production in 2010 will reach 30.2 million compared 21.2 million in 2009, an increase of 42.5 percent -- almost triple the 15 percent growth rate in the overall global market, according to research firm iSuppli.