Apple's iPhone 4S to hit stores next week
Updated: 2012-01-06 07:42
By He Wei and Shen Jingting (China Daily)
Latest handset to arrive on Jan 13, just three months after its US debut
BEIJING / SHANGHAI - Apple Inc will achieve its fastest Chinese iPhone rollout when it launches the latest iPhone 4S on the market next week.
However, analysts said that the popular device is unlikely to escalate into another Apple craze in China and may have a weaker performance than its predecessor.
On Wednesday, Apple announced that its latest handset will be available in China and 21 other countries on Jan 13, just three months after it was first launched in the United States.
The company has great confidence in the Chinese marketplace as the "customer response to our products in China has been off the charts", said Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook in a statement.
China Unicom (Hong Kong) Ltd, the sole Chinese telecom operator to sell the iPhone series on contract, announced immediately on Thursday that the company is ready to sell the iPhone 4S starting from next Friday.
"We are very pleased to introduce iPhone 4S to our clients," said Li Gang, deputy general manager of China United Network Communications Group Co Ltd, in a statement.
Li said China Unicom will offer cost-effective subsidy plans for the device: customers will be able to prepay 5,880 yuan ($933) to get a free iPhone 4S, but will be under contract for 386 yuan a month, with a monthly rebate of 245 yuan.
Chinese buyers can purchase the iPhone 4S through China Unicom's authorized outlets, its website, as well as at Apple's online store, Apple's retail stores and selected Apple authorized resellers.
Huang Jinyan, a sales representative at an Apple retail store in Shanghai's Middle Huaihai Road, said die-hard fans of Apple devices have been clamoring to get their hands on the new gadget and on Thursday morning alone, she spoke to more than 30 customers who wanted more information about the release plan.
"Currently we do not accept online pre-orders. All the details will be available only after Jan 13," said Huang.
Huang said her team at the outlet is prepared for long lines on the launch day.
However, analysts have expressed a relatively pessimistic view about the new device. "In the high-end smartphone market, the iPhone 4S is no longer the only choice for Chinese customers," said Wang Ying, an analyst at the Beijing-based research firm Analysys International.
"The environment changes quickly. Many mobile phone makers have launched competitive products and drawn great attention from buyers," she added. Wang predicted that the iPhone 4S will not be as popular as the iPhone 4.
About 1.28 million iPhone handsets were in the Chinese mainland in the third quarter of last year, accounting for 5.8 percent of the country's total smartphone market, according to statistics from Analysys International. South Korea's Samsung Group held the No 1 position with a smartphone shipment of 5.44 million during the same period, while Finland's Nokia Corp sold 4 million and was ranked No 2.
Sandy Shen, an analyst with Gartner Inc, said that she expects the iPhone 4S to maintain good sales, but if the Chinese telecom operator cuts or stops its subsidies, sales of the iPhone 4S will suffer.
Apple had sold more than 4 million units of iPhone 4S just three days after the launch in October.