PRC Mulling “One-iPhone Policy”

Published on March 30, 2009
by John Paczkowski

If Apple is indeed preparing to offer the iPhone 3G in China in partnership with China Unicom, its sales prospects are looking pretty damn good. Bank of America analyst Scott Craig believes the company could claim as much as a fifth of the smartphone market in China when it launches the device there–and in relatively short order. “Our Asia supply chain checks seem to indicate that Apple believes it can achieve an initial penetration rate, least on a sell-in basis, similar to the iPhone launch in the U.S. (about 20 percent),” Craig wrote in a recent research note. “In fact, given our channel checks in Asia, Apple likely believes it can easily meet (and likely exceed) this and/or believes in other scenarios that result in much higher unit sales levels.”

Craig estimates that Apple (AAPL) can sell 1.5 million iPhones in China in calendar 2009, assuming a midyear release and a price-point of $500-$600. He sees the company selling a further 4.6 million in calendar 2010, and 5.8 million in calendar 2011. That’s a hell of a lot of iPhones. But given the strong gray market interest in China already and the fact that China Unicom’s customer base at 150 million is roughly twice the size of AT&T Wireless, it doesn’t seem like all that much of a stretch.

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