Image via Chinahush
It's a big day for iPhone distribution news already this morning.
First, we learn that France Telecom's Orange will begin marketing the iPhone later this year, and now we're hearing that China Unicom - China's second largest mobile carrier - has a price in mind for its roll-out plan for the iPhone next month.
According to news from Reuters, China Unicom will introduce the iPhone in October at a retail price of 5,000 yuan, which is approximately $730.
The high price tag may force buyers of the popular handsets to sign up for subsidized packages carrying lower handset prices but also longer-term contract commitments, as competition heats up in China's recently reformed telecoms sector.
CLSA analyst Francis Cheung said the pricing is likely to limit the phones to the highest end of the market, a relatively small but lucrative segment now dominated by the country's biggest carrier, China Mobile. "They look at this as a high end product, not mass market. All these plans offer subsidized phones," he said.
"Most people will not buy a phone separate from a plan. It's very expensive. I do get the sense there are going to be affordability issues."
Indeed, the iPhone comes at a very high price, yet in much of Asia, that price tag is par for the course. In Hong Kong, for example, the iPhone retails for approximately $695, which isn't all that much of a reduced price from its Chinese counterpart.
What will truly be fascinating to watch is the comprehensive introduction of the iPhone to the Chinese marketplace at these prices. Like many others, I believe the price will have to come down substantially in order for the Chinese (and Apple) to fully realize the selling potential and growth the device is capable of achieving in the Chinese marketplace.