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China Unicom in Talks for iPhone 4

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China Unicom said on Tuesday it is in talks with Apple Inc to introduce the US company's new iPhone 4 to China.

China's second-largest cellphone carrier also said there has been a "very satisfactory" surge in iPhone sales since Unicom cut product prices and reduced monthly fees for some of its third-generation (3G) services last month.

Li Gang, vice-president of China Unicom, said the company is in negotiations with Apple to introduce its latest version of the most popular smartphone around the world, which was officially launched on Tuesday.

But he said no timetable has been set for the iPhone 4 launch in China, as the product needs to be tested and get approval from China's telecom industry regulator first.

Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs unveiled the new iPhone on Tuesday at the company's Worldwide Developers Conference 2010. Highlights of the new iPhone include a high-resolution screen, front-facing high-definition video camera, larger battery and gyroscope for better rotation.

Li said China Unicom hopes to continue its partnership with Apple, through which "Unicom's management capability, brand image and average revenue per user has improved".

He also noted that the company is interested in introducing Apple's tablet computer, the iPad, into China, declining to give a specific timetable.

Since China Unicom launched the iPhone in China last October, sales have been sluggish in the world's biggest mobile market, partly due to Unicom's pricing strategy and lack of a WiFi function in Unicom's version.

Sales of cheaper, smuggled iPhones on the gray market also hampered sales.

Last month, China Unicom announced that it was going to pour between 3 billion yuan (US$439 million) and 5 billion yuan into making the iPhone and other 3G devices cheaper for consumers this year. The company also lowered the monthly charges on some of its 3G services.

According to media reports, these measures doubled iPhone sales in May.

Li said on Tuesday that his company is very satisfied with iPhone sales growth since the price cut. But he noted that the company does not have plans to drop prices further.

China Unicom announced in December that iPhone sales in China hit 300,000 handsets. Since then, the company has not released iPhone sales figures.

According to figures from domestic research firm Analysys International, the iPhone took up 5.4 percent of China's smartphone market in the first quarter of this year, behind Nokia, Samsung, Motorola, Sony-Ericsson and RIM's Blackberry.

(China Daily June 9, 2010)