updated 10:40 am EDT, Tue August 16, 2011
Carrier setting aside 1.5B yuan for marketing?
China Unicom executives have flown to the US for iPhone talks with Apple, a source claims. The person suggests that the purpose may be to sign a final contract for launching the iPhone 5 in China. Another source, described as an insider at Unicom, says that the carrier has set aside 1.5 billion yuan ($235 million US) for marketing a new iPhone.
Recent reports have hinted that in a break with the past, Apple will launch the next iPhone in China at the same time as the US, or only a few months later. New iPhones have traditionally appeared in China several months after their American counterparts. In fact the first iPhone model to be officially sold in the country was a crippled version of the 3GS, lacking the Wi-Fi support of models sold elsewhere.
For Apple a quick Chinese launch could offer several benefits. The country is now a significant source of iPhone sales, whereas initial numbers were weak. Shipping earlier may also reduce the impact of the gray market, which has not only diverted sales from China Unicom but hurt US launches, since Chinese exporters have previously bought stock at US Apple Stores that was then inaccessible to regular American shoppers.