China Unicom announced on Tuesday that it had only managed to sell 5,000 iPhones since the device first launched in China last week. China Unicom is China’s second largest mobile carrier, and though they’re publicly saying that they’re satisfied with iPhone sales thus far, you can’t help but peg the initial sales as disappointing given the millions of China Unicom subscribers.
As we noted a few days ago, stores selling the new iPhone weren’t experiencing sellouts, which stands in stark contrast to other countries upon launching the iPhone for the first time. Still, low iPhone volume in China should be looked at with the proper perspective. Many of the available phone plans under China Unicom are extremely expensive. Moreover, the iPhone in China comes equipped without wi-fi capabilities, making the device even more undesirable in a country where over 2 million bootleg iPhones (with wi-fi) are believed to be in circulation. Also, China is a breeding ground for gadget knockoffs, and iPhone imitators in particular are extremely popular there. Taken together, getting the iPhone off to a strong start in China was a challenging task, and for the time being, it seems that getting the iPhone into China has been more hype than anything else. It’s still early in the game, though, and we’ll have to keep an eye on iPhone sales going forward before drawing any concrete conclusions.