China Unicom will launch the iPhone 4 in China on Saturday and says it has taken 50,000 pre-orders on the first day of accepting them.
The phone will be sold through China Unicom's shops as well as Apple retail stores, with a new Apple store in Beijing due to open on the same day, Apple said.
The device will retail at Apple stores 4,999 yuan (€568) for the 16GB model and 5,999 yuan for the 32GB without a contract.
But Unicom is charging between 5,880 yuan and 6,999 yuan up-front for the handsets and a deposit on a two-year service contract WSJ.com said.
Unicom's hefty price tag, Chinese consumers' reluctance to become tied in to lengthy contracts, and the wide availability of gray-market and counterfeit iPhones, have led some analysts to suspect that Unicom will struggle to win customers with the handset exclusive, the paper added.
Take-up of the iPhone 3G S, which Unicom launched in China last October, has so far been slow - Apple's share of the nation's smartphone market is believed to be just 7.1%.
But a Unicom spokesperson told Dow Jones the operator took nearly 50,000 pre-orders for the iPhone 4 the day it opened registrations on Friday.