updated 11:05 am EDT, Mon July 6, 2009
Chinese iPhone war
In spite of a recent Merrill Lynch report, no deal has been finalized for a Chinese iPhone, claims Kaufman Bros. analyst Shaw Wu. While China Unicom is still considered the frontrunner for a distribution agreement with Apple, the only alternative carrier in the region -- China Mobile -- is said by industry sources to be persisting in negotiations. The company has the distinct advantage of a larger subscriber base, at 488 million.
By contrast, Unicom has only 133 million; this is thought to be an incentive for greater compromise with Apple however, as a means of gaining a competitive edge. Unicom is specifically said to be offering larger subsidies, as well as more control over content and sales. It is also the only carrier with an iPhone-compatible 3G network, as Mobile depends on the China-exclusive TD-SCDMA format. A version of the device for Mobile would either have to operate without 3G, or rely on revised hardware.
Wu notes that due to ongoing talks, he is not factoring a Chinese iPhone into sales predictions. Some 20 million phones are forecast to be sold in 2009, with another 26 million coming in 2010. Many of these may make their way into China regardless, as some 1 to 1.5 million iPhones are believed to be in use there already, as a result of jailbreaking and unlocking.