China Unicom, the second largest wireless provider in China and currently the only Chinese company carrying the iPhone, announced earlier this week that it will be offering free iPhone 4S's for customers willing to sign up for multiyear contracts.
A 32-gigabyte iPhone 4S on a three-year contract would cost around $45 per month, while a 16-gigabyte on a two-year contract would cost approximately $60, reports Bloomberg.
The deal is set to begin on January 13, the same day Apple had previously announced it would start selling the iPhone 4S in China, along with 21 other markets including Kenya, Bolivia, Botswana and the British Virgin Islands.
According to Alen Lin of BNP Paribas Securities, who spoke to Bloomberg, China Unicom had offered a $45 per month two-year plan for the iPhone 4, but had ended it when the company began losing money. The current offer is the same price but with a three-year commitment so that, according to Lin, China Unicom can have "one additional year to recover the expense."
However, Siri, a feature unique to the iPhone 4S, could mean more revenue for China Unicom than previous versions of the phone, though it depends on the company's data plans. A study conducted by telecom network technology firm Arieso found that iPhone 4S owners use twice the data as owners of the previous iPhone models. The researchers attribute this jump, at least in part, to Siri, the 4S's voice-activated personal assistant and search application. Siri, which responds to voice commands, makes it extremely easy to quickly find information on the internet. It could be this ease that is causing people to use their 4S's, even more than their iPads, for data consumption.
Yet Siri does not yet support Chinese. According to Engadget, Apple will be rolling out language upgrades in 2012.
While China Unicom is the only wireless provider currently offering the iPhone 4S, it may soon be joined by the third largest wireless carrier China Telecom, which could mean a lot more iPhones in China, notes 9to5Mac.
While China Mobile, the largest wireless carrier in China, does not officially offer the iPhone, according to Reuters it has 10 million iPhones on its network.