Our man in Beijing just bought himself a swanky new Apple iPhone (AAPL) for 4,000 RMB ($520ish). It came unlocked, of course, and ready for his SIM card.
(At least our man thinks he bought an iPhone. The Chinese knock-off “HiPhone” sells for about half that, and he says you can barely tell the difference. See video below.)
The last number our man in Beijing heard for China iPhone sales was 600,000, up from the 400,000 that China Mobile (CHL) reported at the end of 2007. The number of HiPhone sales? Incalculable.
As you may recall, our man in Beijing bet us a steak dinner that the iPhone would not arrive officially in China before the end of 2009. Our man is feeling pretty good about now. Why?
Because why on earth would China Mobile (owned mostly by the Chinese government) agree to give Apple a cut of monthly iPhone subscription revenue, when China Mobile can just sell SIM cards and keep all the revenue for itself?
Want to play the-iPhone-in-China trend? Buy China Mobile. And, of course, Apple, which makes a pretty nice living on the unit even when its not pigging out on those monthly subscription fees.