Apple is seeing demand for its iPhone 4 growing on an international level, a trend most recently illustrated in China. Unicom, the country’s second-largest mobile operator and the exclusive provider of the Apple iPhone 4, announced that it doesn’t have enough supply to meet consumer demand, according to a Sept. 26 report from the Wall Street Journal.
Apple’s newest smartphone made its China debut Sept. 25, coinciding with the opening of new Apple retail stores in Shanghai and Beijing. By the morning of Sept. 25, Unicom told the Journal, it had received more than 200,000 preorders, and by the end of the day 40,000 customers had purchased the smartphone, bundled with a service plan.
The Journal added that an Apple spokesperson said that Apple was working to make more of the handsets available soon, and that interested consumers should check online or with their local stores regarding availability. However, Unicom didn’t share exactly how many iPhone 4 handsets Apple originally supplied it with.
As analysts predicted, reception of the iPhone 4-in every regard-has topped that of the iPhone 3GS, which Apple sold approximately only 5,000 units of in the days following its October 2009 release and about 100,000 units of in its first six weeks. The discrepancy is partly attributed to the gray market in China, in which vendors charge raised prices for devices purchased from abroad. Gray market pricing for the iPhone 3GS was reported to be in the neighborhood of $1,170. By contrast, Apple is selling the 16GB model of the iPhone 4 for $743 and the 32GB model for $892.
(Unicom is selling the iPhone 4, Apple said in Sept. 19 press announcement, to “qualified buyers with a new two year contract” for an undisclosed amount.)
In the press announcement, Apple also emphasized that the iPhone 4 is its best handset yet, describing it as having the “highest resolution ever built into a phone” and a “beautiful new design of glass and stainless steel that is the thinnest smartphone in the world.” In the United States, that same glass-and-stainless-steel design led to a public relations debacle for Apple that, following a comment by Apple CEO Steve Jobs, quickly became known as “Antennagate.”
Gates and his team later sought to resolve the design issue-which caused calls to be dropped when the phone was held a certain way-by offering refunds to those who wanted one, or else free rubber cases, or “bumpers,” which engineers at U.S. publication Consumer Reports found to resolve the matter.
In China, looking to avoid the problem all together, Unicom will be offering free cases to iPhone 4 customers, according to Cnet.com.
U.S. iPhone 4 owners looking for a free case, however, will need to apply for one before Sept. 30. Apple recently announced on its site that the Antennagate issue “is even smaller than we originally thought,” and so it will be discontinuing the free case program and returning to its normal returns policy.