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Report: China Unicom Agrees to Buy 5 Million iPhones for $1.46 Billion

China Unicom has agreed to purchase some five million iPhones for US$1.4 billion, according to a report originating with China Business News (via an English-language report from According to sources that include Guangdong Unicom (a China Unicom subsidiary) Deputy General Manager Zhou Youmeng, Apple is selling the phones for 2,000 CNY ($292.60 at the time of the report) each, for a grand total of 10 billion CNY ($1.46 billion).

Another source quoted from within the China Unicom Guangdong subsidiary said the deal was still contingent upon a formal signing between Apple and China Unicom. Reports of a China Unicom deal first surfaced in July of this year, when a preliminary deal was said to have been reached.

The report said that employees are undergoing training on the devices, and that it will be ready to launch in September of this year. If true, this would be in contrast to comments from Apple COO Tim Cook, who said in July's earnings report conference call that Apple hoped to have the iPhone in China within 12 months.

The deal will include three years of exclusivity for China Unicom, and the phones will carry a retail price tag of 2,400 CNY ($351, which is cheaper than in The States) for an 8GB model and 4,800 CNY ($702, which is more expensive than in The States) for a 16GB model. The phones would exclude WiFi capability, which had been a sticking point for entry into the Chinese markets due to regulatory controls in the country.

China is the world's largest market for cell phones -- China Mobile, the country's largest telecom, has more than 340 million subscribers, more than the population of the entire U.S. China Unicom is a smaller company, but one that would seemingly have been willing to meet Apple's business needs. An order for five million units would represent a significant increase in unit sales for Apple.

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