‘Free’ iPhone 4S in China by China Unicom

Apple’s most amazing iPhone ever will finally enter the mainland. China Unicom, China’s second-largest wireless carrier by the number of subscribers, will offer iPhone 4S for free to its customers if they sign a 3-year contract. China Unicom is the only carrier who is offering an iPhone 4S.

Did I say it’s free? Not exactly. The subscribers have to sign a 3-year contract with a monthly bill of 286 yuan or US$ 45. That would translate to US$ 1,620 over a period of 36 months for the subscriber including the data usage. As per Bloomberg this subsidized plan of 286 yuan per month isn’t entirely good for China Unicom either. When it had a similar 2-year contract for the iPhone 4, China Unicom lost money and later withdrew the plan.


iPhone 4S comes with a dual-core A5 chip, Retina Display, 8 megapixel camera which can shoot 1080p HD Video, iOS5 with iCloud integration, Facetime for a video chat and a voice assistant called Siri. Though each specification is better than what iPhone 4 had in offer, it’s the voice assistant Siri that got most of the recognition.

Siri : Do you speak Mandarin?

Siri already speaks and understands English, French and German. Apple has pledged to make Siri Mandarin compatible. Which is one of the reasons for iPhone 4S’s delayed launch in China. When the iPhone 4S officially launches on January 13, 2012, Siri will speak Mandarin.

Siri might help China Unicom

Siri isn’t just a sexy assistant. It’s a data hog. iPhone 4S consumes twice as much data as iPhone. The reason for this excessive data usage is Siri. China Unicom got 51% of its revenues from non-voice services in the first half of 2011. Data traffic on its 3G network jumped seven-fold during the same period. Add Siri – the data hog – to the equation and China Unicom might recover its subsidy costs faster.

But, while the iPhone 4S launch on Jan 13 by China Unicom is the official launch, unlocked iPhone 4S handsets are already available in China through various channels. After all, it’s in China where Apple manufactures its smartphones in the first place. As per rumors, there are already 7 million iPhone 4S units on China Mobile network alone.

Official or unofficial, Apple’s iPhone 4S has found a new home in China – a market which Apple can no longer ignore, given its 1 billion-strong mobile user base.