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Despite official iPhones not having Wi-Fi, a large population of jailbreakers and rampant app piracy, the Chinese App Store is managing to grow at a healthy rate. Meanwhile, China Unicom is optimistic that the iPhone will become the device top-selling smartphone in China.
Apple's iPhone launch appears to be off to a slow start in China as China Unicom and Apple held a launch event largely free of the buzz and long buyer lines that have accompanied launches of the handset elsewhere. During the event, Beijing's first rain in weeks fell on an overhead canopy during the event. "It's because of the rain, the temperature really is a little low today," said Li Yi, a 27-year-old man waiting in line to buy an iPhone 3GS, when asked about the low attendance.
Wireless carrier China Unicom announced that it plans to offer five versions of Apple’s iPhone through an array of two-year service plans when the operator puts the smartphones on sale next month. According to Macworld, China Unicom initially said the iPhone 3G would be priced at around 5,000 yuan (US$732) when it goes on sale in October, though the operator didn’t offer detailed pricing for the eight service plans that it will offer customers. On Tuesday, China Unicom offered more specifics of its pricing plans, saying it would begin taking preorders for the phones on Oct. 1, when it launches its commercial 3G service.
According to China Business Times, China Unicom is pushing for an October 15th launch date for the iPhone 3GS on their network. It will allegedly be priced starting at 1,999 yuan (US$293) for the 8 GB, and 2,999 yuan (US$439) for the 16 GB model. Both models will require two-year contracts with the most basic offer starting at 186 yuan (US$27) per month.
Only two weeks after signing a deal with wireless carrier China Unicom, Apple is back in talks with rival carrier China Mobile to also offer the iPhone to the Chinese marketplace. Per the Wall Street Journal, China Mobile Chairman Wang Jianzhou confirmed that his company is in talks with Apple to offer the iPhone. Unlike in some countries, like the United States, where carrier agreements tend to be exclusive, the deal with China Unicom is nonexclusive.
The announcement of an China Unicom iPhone deal could hit as early as tomorrow according to a Reuters story. The story cites an anonymous analyst who in turn claims to have learned the information from a direct industry source. China Unicom will hold a financial results presentation on Friday, and a carrier spokeswoman confirms that the iPhone will likely come up as a subject of discussion. She has declined to say, however, whether or not a finalized deal will be disclosed.
China Unicom's vice general manager, Zhou Youmeng, has gone on the record as saying that the company will begin offerig the iPhone in September. Local media reports that the company has shelled out 10 billion yuan ($1.46 billion) to buy 5 million units from Apple with unit price of 2,000 yuan ($293).
Senior Apple executives will be heading to China in person to restart negotiations with China Unicom to solidify a deal to bring the 3GS to their country on their network. "Senior officials from Apple Inc are to visit China this week, and they haven't arrived in Beijing yet," the informed source told Sina.com. "Apple's branch company in China are ready for the reception, and it has informed China Unicom about this earlier," the source revealed the information on Monday night.
Fortune summarizes numerous reports on the ongoing negotiations between Apple and China Unicom to bring the iPhone to one of the largest cell phone markets in the world. Both Reuters and AFP report information from a China Unicom spokesperson that the companies are still in negotiations, while Shanghai Security News says they have already reached a conclusion and a deal has already been made.