During a recent event in Beijing, China Unicom (NYSE: CHU; 0762.HK; 600050.SH) unveiled eight new "RMB 1,000" smartphones with 4-inch displays and CPUs clocking up to 1 GHz, as well as announcing its 3G smartphone policy for 2012.
The eight phones, all priced under RMB 1,500, including China Wireless Technologies (2369.HK) subsidiary Yulong's Coolpad 7260, the Hisense HS-U8, ZTE (0763.HK; 000063.SZ) V889D, Huawei U8818, Lenovo (0992.HK) A750, TCL Communication Technology (2618.HK) W989, Amoi N89, and Philips W635. The Coolpad 7260 and Hisense HS-U8 hit the market in late December 2011.
Unicom expects China's RMB 1,000 smartphone market to reach 90 mln units sold in 2012, while 60 mln smartphones priced between RMB 1,000 and RMB 2,000 will be sold, including both well-known domestic and international brands. Unicom expects the iPhone to continue to be the carrier's flagship strategic product in the high-end RMB 2,000 or more smartphone market, and Unicom will continue to strengthen its line-up of operator-customized Android smartphones as well as a range of Windows Phone handsets. Unicom will also push dual-mode, dual-standby, dual-SIM smartphones.
The WCDMA/GSM dual-SIM, dual-standby Coolpad 7260 features a 4-inch WVGA 16 mln color HD multitouch display, Android 2.3, and Coolpad's secure cloud services. The Hisense HS-U8 WCDMA/GSM dual-SIM, dual-standby smartphone is 1.6 mm thick and features a 5 MP autofocus camera and 3 MP front-facing camera. Both are available with contract plans. Customers who select the RMB 96 per month two-year contract plan can receive the handset for free with a RMB 1,599 prepaid deposit. Users who purchase a smartphone without a contract plan for RMB 1,299 can later select a two-year contract plan starting at RMB 46 per month and receive free calling credit.
China Unicom's 3G network already covers 341 cities and over 95% of county towns nationwide. HSPA+ peak downlink speeds reach up to 21 MB in 56 key cities. Nearly 20,000 Unicom service centers offer 3G services, as well as nearly 10,000 non-operator stores run by hundreds of major retail chains. Unicom 3G service is also available through mainstream e-commerce channels. According to a source within Unicom, non-operator channels contribute over 50% of China Unicom's 3G growth.
According to an industry source, China has 900 mln handset users, 90% of whom have a handset priced under RMB 2,000.
Editor's Note: For more background on this topic, please see "China Unicom Unveils New Smartphones" MD 12/26/11 issue.