China Unicom Hong Kong Ltd. (762), the nation’s second-largest wireless carrier, said online reservations for Apple Inc.’s new iPhone 5C and 5S have passed 100,000 units since the devices were unveiled last week.
China Unicom, which announced the volume of registrations on its official account with Sina Corp.’s Weibo microblog, hasn’t disclosed pricing plans for the handsets which are due to go on sale Sept. 20.
Apple unveiled the 5S and 5C models for the networks of China Unicom and China Telecom Corp. (728) last week as it tries to stem a declining share in the world’s largest mobile-phone market. That goal may be challenged by reduced support from carriers looking to reign in costs with China Telecom announcing subsidies on the iPhone 5C and 5S that analysts estimate are about 15 percent less than offered for the earlier model.
“The plan is more conservative this time,” Eva Yip, a Hong Kong-based analyst at Sun Hung Kai Financial Ltd., said of China Telecom’s announced iPhone subsidy. “The handset subsidy as a percentage of upfront payment is less than that of the iPhone 5 plan.”
A China Telecom monthly plan costing 289 yuan ($47) for the iPhone 5S carries a subsidy of 2,890 yuan, 15 percent less than the 3,400 yuan for the iPhone 5 on the same plan, according to Yip. Jacky Yung, a Hong Kong-based spokesman for China Telecom, declined to comment on Yip’s estimates.
“Generally, the higher monthly iPhone 5S/5C tariff plan or a longer contract period a subscriber chooses, the higher handset subsidy the subscriber could enjoy,” Yung said in an e-mail yesterday.
China Telecom requires a downpayment of 4,488 yuan for any plan with a 16-gigabyte iPhone 5C, and 5,288 yuan for the 5S, the carrier said on its website. The handset is free for buyers on a two-year contract with a minimum monthly plan of 329 yuan for the 5C or 389 yuan for the 5S as the price is refunded against monthly usage, according to the website.
China Unicom may follow its smaller rival in taking a less aggressive approach to iPhone subsidies, Cynthia Meng, a Hong Kong-based analyst with Jefferies Group LLC, wrote in a report to clients yesterday.
“China Unicom and China Telecom are more rational on price competition,” Meng wrote. Both are “balancing between quantity and quality of new 3G subscriber development,” she wrote.
China Mobile Ltd. (941), the nation’s largest phone company, doesn’t have a distribution agreement with Apple for the iPhone. Cupertino, California-based Apple is close to securing a deal with China Mobile and is preparing to ship iPhones to the carrier, a person with knowledge of the matter said earlier this month.
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