China Unicom says it could begin selling Apple’s iPhone 4S by year-end after being given the green light by the country's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) to offer the device.
Speaking to China Daily, Yu Yingtao, general manager of Unicom's sales and marketing department, said the iconic device would be available (at the latest) in time for the Chinese New Year on 23 January, but that the operator was pushing to release it before 1 January.
Unicom – China’s second-largest operator – is currently the only network in the country authorised to offer the Apple device, though a thriving grey market means it is also widely used on rival networks, such as market leader China Mobile.
Despite offering the premium device, Yu said Unicom will concentrate next year on selling mid-priced smartphones, costing between CNY1,000 and CNY2,000 (US$158-US$314). He said he believes that 20 percent of the smartphones sold in China fall into this category.
"We have achieved success in selling entry-level, CNY1,000 smartphones in China this year," Yu said. "Sales of mid-end smartphones are what we should try to bolster in 2012."
One vendor taking advantage of the rapid rise of smartphones in China is local device maker ZTE.
"In the third quarter, China jumped ahead of the US to become the biggest smartphone market in the world," He Shiyou, executive vice-president of ZTE, told China Daily. "That created a big business opportunity for companies like ZTE."
ZTE has shipped 3 million of its Blade V880 smartphone since launch in April. Earlier this year, ZTE said it expected to ship 12 million smartphones in 2011, but He said that “the whole year's shipment of smartphones may far exceed our previous expectations." It expects to double smartphone shipments in 2012.