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iPhone Gets Tepid Welcome In China

Apple’s blockbuster iPhone isn’t quite able to attain the kind of popularity in China as it had in other markets across the world.

China Unicom, the official carrier of the iPhone in the country, noted on Tuesday that it signed up some 5,000 customers for the device in the first four days it was made available.

Attaining 5,000 customers in around a week in the most populous and fastest developing country like China can hardly be considered as a grand opening. Nevertheless, the carrier asserted that it was pleased with the situation.

Expressing the company’s satisfaction over the iPhone sales figures it had achieved, Chang Xiaobing, chairman of China Unicom, told Reuters: “We are satisfied with iPhone sales so far, and we aim to have an additional 1 million new 3G subscribers each month in the near future”.

This is clearly far less than the 146,000 iPhones AT&T signed up for the first weekend when it was launched in the US in June 2007.

But, in addition to having to sell the device without Wi-Fi, China Unicom has to compete with a huge market of iPhone knock-offs, that is, made in China cellphones that aren’t legitimately authorised by the government.

Dubbed as ‘grey-market’ handsets, the makers of these handsets pay no taxes and the handsets have bogus Mobile Equipment Identity numbers. Consequently, these handsets are available at cheaper rates and can be used with prepaid accounts.

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at ITProPortal.com where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.