According to an internal source at China Unicom (NYSE: CHU; 0762.HK; 600050.SH), China Unicom will begin sales of an operator-customized Blackberry Storm 9500 in Q1 this year. The phones, available in two models, will be priced commensurately with the China Mobile (NYSE: CHL; 0941.HK) and China Telecom (NYSE: CHA; 0728.HK) branded Blackberry phones. The source also revealed that China Unicom had not yet received samples of the new phones, and thus, testing of the phones has not yet begun.
Currently, China Mobile has two models of branded Blackberry phones, the 8310 and the 8910, which are targeted toward individual customers, while China Telecom has two models, the 9530 and the 9630, which are targeted at enterprise customers.
Editor's Note: While this rumor has indicated the series simply as the Blackberry 9500, it most likely refers to RIM's touchscreen Storm2 9550, which was introduced globally (although not in China) in October 2009, and one other model. Chinese smartphone consumers have demonstrated a strong preference for touchscreen models. The Storm 9500, announced globally in September 2008, is already well past RIM's 18-month threshold for classifying any given model as an end-of-life product (i.e. meaning they no longer produce it). For more background on this topic, please see "Rumor: China Unicom to Offer Blackberry 9500" MD 5/26/10 issue.