The Apple iPhone 3G will go on sale in China in October, bringing the consumer phenomenon to a market of nearly three quarters of a billion mobile phone users, according to reports.
Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) and China Unicom finalized a deal to bring the iPhone to China, with the Chinese telecom expected to officially announce the partnership tomorrow, according to a major Chinese news portal, 163.com.
The U.S. mobile market is pegged at about 270 million users, but China has close to 700 million, according to the report. China Unicom, the country’s second-biggest mobile telecom firm, has been negotiating with Apple for two years.
If the report is true, Chinese consumers will see an 8GB iPhone 3G, with a two-year contract and monthly plan of $27. However, the Chinese market may miss out on the emerging trend of incorporating Wi-Fi access into smartphones, as the feature will initially be disabled, though it may be added in the future, along with the country’s own WLAN authentication and privacy infrastructure standard.
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The report does not specify any details for the iPhone 3GS, however the Web site does show a picture of what may be a Chinese version of the latest iPhone with a serial number.
Meanwhile, China Mobile officially launched its application store, named Mobile Market, for Nokia, Samsung, Lenovo, Motorola and Sony Ericsson handsets. Unicom may open one as well, according to Mobinode.com, a blog focusing on the Asian tech industries.
Although Apple has successfully launched the iPhone in more than 70 countries, China was the last big hold out. Apple executives in June told analysts about the company’s plan for expanding into China as part of the roadmap for the future of the iPhone, along with releasing models at lower price points and expanding features.
The news of the China deal comes as Apple’s expansion overseas and the reduced price on the older 3G iPhone have already proven profitable for the company, according to research firm Gartner’s data for the second quarter.
Sales of 5.4 million units in the second quarter of 2009 indicated a 51 percent growth in shipments and helped Apple maintain the No. 3 position in the smartphone market, where it’s been since the third quarter of 2008. Sustained sales increases have helped lift the company’s share of the smartphone market from 2.8 percent to 13.3 percent year-over-year.
Apple’s smartphone surge contrasts starkly with No. 1 player Nokia, whose market share slipped from 47.4 percent market share to 45 percent, and No. 2 Research In Motion (NASDAQ: RIMM), which saw a modest uptick from 17.3 percent to 18.7 percent.