The iPhone has been available in China through China Unicom for just under a month, but the sales results so far have been far short of what the carrier hoped and even some the more pessimistic pundits had predicted. In the latest bit of bad news for the effort to bring the black-market phone legit in China, the popular Chinese e-commerce site TaoBao - called the "eBay of China" - reports a grand total of five iPhones sold in the first two weeks of ints online store.
China Unicom, the phone's carrier, only managed to sell 5,000 handsets in the phone's first few days, far less than at equivalent launches in the U.S., UK, France, and Germany. While the carrier says it is "satisfied" with the phone's sales performance, the numbers are disappointing for a phone that has enjoyed wide popularity worldwide.
Even more disappointing is the news that Taobao.com - the leading e-commerce site in China and the only authorized iPhone sales outlet other than China Unicom - sold no more iPhones than you can count on one hand, according to IDG News Service. Since the phone launched on the site on November 22, only two 8 GB models were sold, three 16 GB models, and exactly no 32 GB models.
One major problem is price. The phone is available in China for ¥6,999 - or about $1,024 US - without a contract, but can be purchased in Hong Kong for the equivalent of about $800. Sales were also hindered by the exclusion of WiFi from the phone, following the Chinese government's ban on the standard, which it was trying to replace with its homegrown. Since May China has rescinded the ban, but new Wi-Fi-ready models won't be available for months yet in China.
In its report, IDG suggests that problems with the China-only version of the App Store may also be hurting China Unicom's sales.
Credit cards are increasingly common in China, but their holders rarely use them to make small payments via mobile phone, local consultancy Analysys International said in a research note. Credit card penetration also remains low among young people of the sort that would like the App Store, it said. Many Chinese make payments via mobile phone but do so with prepaid cards sold by local carriers. The App Store will need to add new payment options and more localized content to win more users in China.