iPhone 4S coming to China by year-end?

China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) has granted China Unicom permission to begin offering Apple’s latest iteration of the iPhone, the 4S model. The operator is aiming to begin selling the handset before the end of 2011, according to sales & marketing general manager Yu Yingtao.

Yu added that if the operator missed this goal, it would definitely make the device available before Chinese New Year (23rd January). Currently Unicom is the sole licensed provider of Apple’s smartphones in China, although customers on other networks have found ways around this via the booming ‘grey market’ for the devices.

Although the Apple phone will be offered at a premium price, Unicom’s overall smartphone strategy will shift in 2012 to mid-priced devices of around CNY1000-2000, or US$158-314. "We have achieved success in selling entry-level, CNY1,000 smartphones in China this year," said Yu. "Sales of mid-end smartphones are what we should try to bolster in 2012." Currently, around a fifth of smartphones in China fall into this price range.

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