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IPhone demand outstrips supply in China
Published on: 2010-09-27
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China Unicom Ltd. said its supply of Apple Inc.'s iPhone 4 handsets is insufficient to meet user demand but that it will increase its supply as quickly as possible. Sales of the model started at a much faster pace than when older versions of the iPhone went on sale in China last year.

Unicom had received more than 200,000 iPhone 4 preorders by early Saturday, the day sales started, and more than 40,000 buyers received the phone and a bundled mobile-service plan that day, Unicom said. By comparison, Unicom last year sold 100,000 iPhone handsets in roughly six weeks after officially introducing the devices in China in late October.

The latest version of Apple's popular smartphone was widely awaited in China and could help Unicom attract more users to its third-generation mobile services, which are more expensive but offer faster data speeds than typical services. Unicom, the only network operator in China to offer the iPhone, is competing with rivals China Mobile Ltd. and China Telecom Corp. to build its 3G subscriber base.

An Apple spokeswoman said more iPhones will be available soon and that customers should check online or with local stores regarding availability.

The faster start to iPhone 4 sales comes as Apple has started shortening the time between introducing its devices in the U.S. and China. The iPhone 4 went on sale in China about three months after its introduction in the U.S. and several other countries in late June. That compares with a lag of 28 months between the original iPhone's U.S. introduction and the first authorized iPhone sales in China, and a gap of more than five months for the iPad, which went on sale in China earlier this month.

Apple is looking to increase product sales and promote its brand by opening more of its retail stores in China. It opened two stores over the weekend, doubling its total in the country, as part of plans to add a total of 25 by the end of next year.

Unicom didn't give details on its stock of the iPhone 4, but network operators elsewhere have also faced tight supply. Telstra Corp.'s Hong Kong unit, CSL Ltd., said in August it faced challenges delivering the iPhone 4, citing high demand. In the U.S., high demand for the iPhone 4 in late June led operator AT&T Inc. to stop taking new orders on the first day of preorders, citing processing problems. Apple apologized to customers who were turned away due to insufficient supply.

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