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Free iPhone 4S deal tempts Chinese fanbois
Two or three-year contract, zero dollars down
Updated China Unicom is offering a no-money-up-front iPhone 4S to Chinese customers in a deal that is sure to make iPhone users worldwide feel a wee bit underappreciated and overcharged.
According to Bloomberg's interpretation, the deal – which begins on January 13, the iPhone 4S's debut day in the Middle Kingdom – is sweet for users but a gamble for China Unicom, the country's second-largest wireless service provider and the only one to currently offer the iPhone, although talks between Apple and rival China Mobile have been rumored.
For 286 yuan per month ($45.30), China Unicom will provide a 32GB iPhone 4S for users who sign up for a three-year contract. For 386 yuan per month ($61.15), a user can get a 16GB iPhone 4S on a two-year contract.
Here in the US, AT&T's least-expensive plan for the 32GB iPhone 4S costs $39.99 per month for 450 "Anytime Minutes" for users who want to call both mobile and landline phones – but you'll pay $299 for the phone (plus tax on the full iPhone 4S value), and incur a $36 set-up fee. One assumes that the China Unicom base contract is voice-only, as well, but The Reg was not immediately able to confirm that supposition.
If you'd like to use your AT&T iPhone 4S for data and messaging, the lowest-cost option is an additional $15 for 200MB of data, plus $20 for unlimited messaging, or $0.20 per message. Although our lack of Chinese-language skills prevent us from reading China Unicom's pricing table, their plans appear to ratchet up, as well.
Sucking up all of the iPhone's subsidization costs is a risk to China Unicom, as is the 286-yuan plan. Perhaps the wireless service provider has been seduced by the time-honored temptation of "Sure, we're losing money – but we'll make it up in volume."
More likely, they're taking a longer-term view, hoping that once subscribers move to their service they'll stay for years to come – years in which China Unicom could increase tariffs on both basic and add-on services. ®
A kind Reg reader has supplied us with a translation of the meat of China Unicom's pricing table. Unfortunately, we can't verify this translation, but here it is:
Prepayment with a monthly payback? Interesting...