Although Apple is not technically selling iPhones in China, one in ten shipments have landed there due to savvy entrepreneurs in the U.S. and Europe who purchase the phones and then unlock them. China Mobile, who was in talks with Apple to legally distribute the phones, said that there are about 400,000 of the phones on their network.
In-Stat, a market analysis group, was not surprised that the iPhone caught on in China, but did not expect such high numbers.
Firstly, different from the US where the smartphone market is fairly limited, appealing primarily to business users, The smartphone market in China, though, is an entertainment-oriented individual consumer market. The main reasons that Chinese mobile users purchase smartphones include entertainment (such as music players, cameras and video) and to access mobile Internet applications (such as IM, e-book, and games). We believe the iPhone will be favored by these consumers as it can better meet such demand. Secondly, high-end handset buyers significantly outnumber high-end mp3 player buyers. We estimate that 20% of handsets sold in China in 2007 cost more than 4,000 RMB (US$533). In another words, there are an estimated 28 million potential users for the iPhone in China.
IPhone imitations are also common in China.