back to article Free iPhone 4S deal tempts Chinese fanbois

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. If your Chinese reading skills are superior to those of your Reg reporter, you can find details on China Unicom's website. If not, you can attempt to …


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  1. Darryl

    When you have a subscriber base larger than the population of most countries, you can afford to throw in a few free phones

    1. LarsG know....

      How much the really cost to make that they can give them away free!

  2. User McUser

    Losing money? Hardly!

    Let's math, shall we?

    $45.30/mo * 36mo = $1,630.80

    MSRP* for factory unlocked GSM iPhone 4s (32GB) = $749.00

    Profit: $881.80

    *I doubt they're paying that much per unit.

  3. Gkpm

    How about you get a reporter/translator that knows Chinese?

    Seems it's getting more and more important these days.

  4. Jonathan Cohen

    Nothing to see here...

    CYN 386 is approx £40. £40/month for 24 months and a free iPhone 4S is similar to most UK and other countries networks... I'll ignore the US, as their market appears distorted by lack of competition. Also El Reg is still a UK publication I believe?

  5. Annihilator


    "Sure, we're losing money – but we'll make it up in volume."

    Not quite, it's closer to "sure, we'll lose money on day 1, but we'll make it up over the life of the 3 year contract - and then some"

  6. Manu T

    all BS

    This is all BS and speculation. For starters no-one is gonna keep this piece of junk for over a year. This applies not only to iPhones but to ANY phone. It's all electronic junk. Defunct in a one year time with features left out by OS upgrades IF you get any upgrades at ALL (Yes, I'm Looking at YOU Samsung/Sony-Ericsson etc...!!!)

    It's not gonna be long before anti-consumerism roars its head. Ppl will get fed-up with these crazy update/upgrade cycles that these morrons keep pushing on us while at the same time driving prices up and hence elongating subscription plans to keep things affordable. It's hypocrite, crazy and it won't last forever! Period!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > This is all BS and speculation.

      You mean the rest of your post, surely.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      That's "rears", "people", "morons" and "hypocritical". Otherwise, I'm sure whatever point you were trying to make was a good one.

  7. Arctic fox
    Thumb Down

    "iPhone users worldwide feel a wee bit underappreciated"? Only if they are both......

    ........totally braindead and *very* parochial. The average monthly wage in China is about 1800 yuan. The cheapest plan in that list represents about 16% of the average Chinese citizen's salary *before* deductions. The average monthly wage in the UK before deductions is about £2,200 giving us an *equivalent* monthly cost for plan #1 of £(0.16 x 2200) = £346.66. Still fancy some of that? It will be a long time before ordinary Chinese people can even begin to dream of owning a high end smartphone.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Oh are you in for a big surprise ...

      "China Buys more Lamborghinis and Rolls-Royces than U.S. in 2011"

      "Vertu rings in the Year of the Dragon by welcoming a trio of Signature luxury phones" ($20K a pop)

      You're the braindead one if you only think in averages, a lot more if you do so for China.

      1. Arctic fox

        RE: "China Buys more Lamborghinis and Rolls-Royces than U.S. in 2011"

        I am perfectly well aware of the difference between, for example, "average" and "median". That is indeed the point here. Income disparity in China is even more extreme than in the US. If one speaks of the "1.0%" in the United States then one should perhaps speak of the "0.1%" in China. The vast majority of Chinese people are dirt poor in comparison to the equivalent economic groups/classes in Western society. A skilled blue-collar or white-collar worker in the UK could certainly realistically buy an iPhone (or other high-end smartphone) on a plan from a carrier, he or she would not regard it as a minor matter financially but it would be doable dependent upon the scale of the rest of their monthly expenditure. Skilled blue-collar or white-collar workers in China however (ie ordinary Joes and Josephines like me and thee) could not possibly afford what that plan costs. *That* was the point with my comparison - that plan is nothing that any ordinary Western retail customer need feel envious of. In Chinese terms that plan costs the earth.

  8. Ironfrost

    The opening sentence of the article isn't accurate - in China, most free phone on contract deals (including this one) aren't in the form of "we give you a free phone if you agree to pay X RMB per month for Y months" as you would expect in the UK/US, but actually "you pay us for the phone up-front then we deduct the price from your monthly fee over a period of Y months". (China has much less developed credit reporting systems than Western countries, so it's safer for them this way - even if you decide to skip out on the contract before your term is up, they haven't lost money).

    PS this isn't a new move from Unicom - they offered a very similar deal (possibly identical?) for the iPhone 4, and before it the 3GS. I was going to get one, but they said I couldn't transfer my old phone number to the new plan.

  9. David Barr
    Thumb Down

    3 year contract?

    That's got to be a stupid move... take a bad contract to get the latest iPhone and tie yourself in for 3 years...when after 6 months or whatever the next refresh is it'll no longer be the latest iPhone.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I don't know if it's different over the border, but here in Hong Kong although the handset is 'free', you have to front up the full retail value of the phone as a deposit for the duration of the contract.

    1. jamie 5

      Indeed. They call it pre-payment, and unless you have the right credit card, you have to give the phone company an interest free loan for the cost of the handset, and they repay you by knocking 1/24 the cost of each bill.

      Oh, and they force you to pay for VAS that you don't want.

      And have crappy networks...

      HK is proof that capitalism has its flaws.

  11. Piro Silver badge

    Expensive contracts and expensive phones - a mug's game.

    Buy your hardware off ebay and just get the cheapest deal you can find.

    I bought my Desire HD off ebay for cheap and I pay £10/month on t-mobile, which gets me everything I could want.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Same here. I bought a factory unlocked iPhone 3GS off fleabay for about £200, shortly after the iPhone 4 came out and everyone on contracts got upgrades and wanted rid of their old phones.

      Similar £10 / month PAYG from O2 with free texts and intarwebs. The cost of smartphone ownership doesn't have to be exhorbitant, if you're prepared to be a bit canny about it.

  12. DragonLord


    Looking at that table the sums seem to work out as

    Monthly contract cost - ( (price of phone - not refundable deposit) / length of contract ) = amount you pay.

    And as someone else pointed out above you have to pay for the entire phone up front and then they refund the difference over the contract term rather than the way we do it in the UK where they give us the phone and bump up the contract price.

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