Local reports state Unicom is also gearing up to launch the iPhone 4S by the year-end – a move that would round out its iPhone lineup. The operator is Apple’s sole distributor in China, and was swamped by customers when it launched its first model in September 2010.
China Unicom is turning to lower-priced versions of Apple’s iPhone to boost its 3G subscriber base.
The carrier plans to launch the 8GB version of iPhone 4 on Friday, with prices starting at 186 yuan (€21.44) a month with a three-year contract and running up to 586 yuan a month with a one-year contract. The contract-free price is 4999 yuan.
Unicom hopes the device will boost its competitiveness against rivals China Mobile and China Telecom in the race to dominate 3G. While the operator signed up 16.17 million new 3G subscribers in the nine months to end-September, it is still short on its target of adding 25 million 3G customers during 2011.
Furthermore, Unicom’s nine month figures are barely higher than China Telecom, which added 16.14 million users during the period, and are well down on the 22.46 million signed up by China Mobile.