Apple iPhone Sales in China Underreported

Last week, media reports were circulating that the pricey, WiFi-free version of the iPhone on sale in China was barely selling at all, with many outlets reporting that China Unicom had managed to move only 5,000 units in the device’s first two weeks on sale. But it’s been another week and, guess what? Turns out those numbers were less-than-accurate. China Unicom is now reporting that it has sold more than 100,000 iPhones in the 40 days since they went on sale in China. What’s the reason for the disparity in figures? Apparently, confusion about when China Unicom released sales numbers…and a translation error that led one firm to leave a zero off its reported figures.


China Unicom did indeed report 5,000 iPhones had been sold, but did so only a few days after the product launch, not a full two weeks as many media outlets reports. Muddying the waters further, Marbridge Consulting reported that China Unicom had sold only 10,000 iPhones in 40 days, but then amended the story, noting that a translation error had left a zero off its figures.

China Unicom’s chairman has been quoted as claiming the iPhone will become the top-selling smartphone in China, but there’s little doubt the Apple device faces some pretty fierce competition. Dell and RIM are preparing to enter the Chinese market, and Japanese and South Korean mobile phone makers are more than eager to tap into the Chinese market. Furthermore, the iPhone’s price puts it far above the reach of most Chinese: without a contract, iPhone prices are the equivalent of $725 to $1,000, although a variety of subscription plans can bring the actual handset cost down to nothing thanks to carrier subsidies. And, of course, China has a thriving grey market in iPhones imported from other markets.

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