China Unicom's revelation, which arrives less than a week after the public debut of the iPhone 5s and 5c, is the first sign of pre-order figures for the new handsets from any of Apple's launch partners. The numbers come despite the fact that the the carrier has still not revealed any pricing information, though analysts told Bloomberg that subsidies are expected to shrink compared to those offered for the iPhone 5.
"China Unicom and China Telecom are more rational on price competition," wrote Jeffries analyst Cynthia Meng, adding that the carriers are "balancing between quantity and quality of new 3G subscriber development." Fellow analyst Eva Yip of Sun Hung Kai Financial Ltd. in Hong Kong estimated the iPhone 5s subsidies from China Telecom would be about 15 percent lower than those for the iPhone 5.
The effect of the iPhone on Chinese carriers' profitability has been dramatic, as China Telecom's first half of 2013 financial results received a significant lift thanks to increases in revenue from 3G data due to the popular smartphones.
The second- and third-largest wireless carriers in China ? China Unicom and China Telecom ? will begin offering the iPhone 5s and 5c on Friday, Sept. 20th, marking the first time that the iPhone has been available to China's 1.4 billion consumers on its global launch day. A deal with market leader China Mobile to gain access to its 740 million customers is expected but has not yet been announced.