The Chinese carrier will start offering the new iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C on Friday.
According to a post on Chinese e-commerce site 360 Buy, China Unicom requires users to buy a 24-month, 286 yuan ($47) per month data plan and then pay 1,099 yuan ($179) for the cheaper iPhone 5C.
The large amount a customer is forced to initially spend to get the iphone highlights the difference between carrier subsidies in China with other markets like the U.S. It also shows why the high price points in China make it so difficult for Apple to compete. While subsidies for Apple’s iPhone from U.S. carriers make it comparable to other top-end phones like Samsung’s Galaxy S4, in China fewer customers spring for subsidized plans due to the high price, and therefore must spend more for the iPhone than comparable Samsung or HTC phones.
For an iPhone 5C without any upfront costs, users have to sign a 24-month plan that charges them 386 yuan per month or a 36-month plan that charges them 286 yuan per month. Neither of these options is likely to bring in many Chinese customers from smaller cities, for whom a 2,000 yuan to 3,000 yuan phone is already considered middle range.
Gartner has said earlier that demand in the premium smartphone market in developing countries such as China comes mainly from the lower end of this segment, with an average selling price of $400 or less.
In China, an unsubsidized iPhone 5S costs 5,288 yuan while an iPhone 5C costs 4,488.