iPhone Available from China Unicom Come October 1

Priced at 5,000 yuan, full retail

Wireless carrier China Unicom has already announced officially that it closed a deal with Cupertino-based Apple to sell the iPhone in the country, and now a series of details on the availability of the device in China have emerged into the wild. Among them, the fact that October 1 seems to be the release date for the iPhone, and that the price tag for the device has been set at 5,000 yuan ($732.50).

The three-year deal between China Unicom and Apple was announced back in August, and reports say that the carrier plans on putting the iPhone on sale the very same day it will launch its 3G network. The company already conducted a series of trials for the upcoming 3G services, which are based on the WCDMA standard and is said to plan on attracting as many customers as possible to its upcoming network.

The price tag for the iPhone, Reuters notes, might have been set so high so that users would sing up for a long-term contract with the carrier, which would deliver them the device at a much lower, subsidized price. “Most people will not buy a phone separate from a plan. It's very expensive. I do get the sense there are going to be affordability issues,” CLSA analyst Francis Cheung said.

Due to the high price, the phone might appeal only to the higher-end segment of the market, the analyst suggests. “They look at this as a high end product, not mass market. All these plans offer subsidized phones.” However, we should note that China Unicom is expected to offer eight service plans for those who opt for an iPhone, priced at between 126 yuan and 886 yuan per month. Accordingly, the subsidies offered by the carrier for the device should range from 893 yuan to 4,253 yuan.

The Chinese government, as many of you might already know, allowed at the beginning of the year for carriers to start deploying 3G networks in the country, and, as they prepare for the launch of the new services, competition is expected to tighten up. The availability of the iPhone is expected to enable China Unicom to attract a lot of users to its new services, and the carrier already announced that it signed up around 530,000 3G users since it started the trials on WCDMA.

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