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Chinese Market Looks Away from New Local Version iPhone

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Apple iPhone 3Gs press imageBEIJING, China – Few weeks ago the iPhone arrived officially to the Chinese market through China Unicom and an online retailer. From the latter, only five iPhone units have been sold since then. This low number shows that the handset is suffering in China from its high price and lack of Wi-Fi.

China Unicom is also offering the iPhone through its website, although sale statistics are not available. However, on Taobao.com, where most Chinese consumers turn to it to buy items such as mobile phones and laptops , the situation occurs, having sold only two 8GB iPhones and three 16GB iPhones, according to figures on the site. Again, a very low number considering that Tabao.com is an official iPhone Store and the biggest Chinese e-commerce website.

The Chinese iPhone version is competing with those from overseas, which have been brought since the iPhone was released in the global market.  The two major disadvantages are the lack of Wi-Fi owing to its removal by China Unicom to comply with local regulations, and the higher price against an iPhone brought from the outside are the possible reasons of its defeat. While a 32GB iPhone 3GS with no service contract costs 6,999 yuan (US$967) in China, compared to about US$800 in nearby Hong Kong.

The situation contrasts the one in South Korea, where the KT carrier received over 60,000 online orders before launching the iPhone, while China Unicom has said it sold just 5,000 iPhone units in the few days after its launch.

Another possible disadvantage that the iPhone is suffering is the payment facilities at its App Store. According to the local consultancy Analysys International, the credit card penetration remains low among young people of the sort that would like the App Store, and many Chinese make payments via mobile phone, but do so with prepaid cards sold by local carriers.

Despite this outlook, China Unicom has a positive mind about the iPhone. This was reflected by a company executive when saying that China Unicom expects 10% of China’s 3G users to buy iPhone handsets.

[1 CNY = US$0.146444]

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By , International Correspondent on Dec 9th, 2009 GMT +2

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