China Unicom will launch the iPhone 4 in China, officially bringing Apple's newest phone to the world's third-largest mobile provider, on Saturday, September 25 at 8 a.m. according to an Apple press release
today. At the same time, Apple will open two new stores, one in the Joy City shopping center in Beijing and one in the luxury Hong Kong Plaza in Shanghai.
China Unicom, the country's second-largest mobile phone operator, took nearly 50,000 pre-orders
for the iPhone 4 last Friday, at prices ranging from 5,880 yuan (around $874 US) for the 16GB model to 6,999 yuan ($1,040) for the 32GB iPhone 4 including a deposit towards a two year contract (no word yet whether the phones will be available pre-jailbroken
or not). Cell service contracts are not popular in China, with most users paying month to month. The need to sign a contract, along with a perception of poor call quality, is leading many users to buy unlocked iPhones on the gray market and use them on the larger China Mobile network. Apple currently sells 3GS phones unlocked in its China Apple Stores, and may do so with the iPhone 4 as well, according to a story in the Wall Street Journal
's China Realtime Report
The new stores in Beijing and Shanghai will join the two retail outlets Apple has already opened in those cities. The company plans to have 25 stores in China by the end of next year. The iPhone 4 release, coming just a week after Apple officially launched the iPad in China, is another sign of Apple's slow but steady growth in the Chinese market. Some customers lined up for several days to get an iPad, and even at the exorbitant (for most Chinese workers) price of the iPhone, it's grown to be the fifth most popular smartphone in the country, with a 7.1% share of the market as of the second quarter of this year.
China has some 420 million web users and is the world's largest mobile phone market, with more than 800 million subscribers as of the end of June, according to official government figures.