China Mobile Ltd (中國移動) is offering smartphone discounts of as much as US$919 and early access to “star models” while advertising its fourth-generation (4G) wireless service on a website featuring a picture of a stylized apple.
The world’s biggest mobile phone company, which has yet to announce an agreement to offer Apple Inc’s iPhone, is relying on popular handsets such as Samsung Electronics Co’s Galaxy Note II to lure users. China Mobile received regulatory approval on Wednesday last week to start commercial service on the world’s largest 4G mobile network, after three years of trials, as it tries to attract smartphone users seeking faster downloads.
In an advertising blitz on billboards at bus stops and subway stations across Beijing, smartphones from Samsung, Sony Corp and HTC Corp (宏達電) are prominently featured. Domestic vendors in China Mobile’s first wave of eight 4G handsets include ZTE Corp (中興), Huawei Technologies Co (華為), and the Coolpad (酷派) brand of China Wireless Technologies Ltd (中國無線).
“The subsidy levels of these first wave, mid-high-end 4G handsets are good,” Nicole Peng (彭路平), the China research director for Canalys, wrote in an e-mail. “At this time of the year, operators usually push the high-end devices harder, as December and January is an important gifting season. And for China Mobile from now till the next six months is a crucial time for them to get ahead of competitors in acquiring 4G users,” she said.
To receive the maximum handset discount of 5,580 yuan (US$919), users are required to make a two-year commitment to a 488-yuan monthly service plan, according to promotion materials available at China Mobile outlets. At that level, the user could chose any of the eight devices for free, as the most expensive of the group is the HTC 8088 priced at 4,821 yuan.
The Sony M35T, the least costly of the foreign brands, is priced at 2,999 yuan and requires a monthly plan of 258 yuan for a free handset. The Samsung N7108D costs 4,201 yuan, requiring a monthly plan of at least 388 yuan.
ZTE’s U9815 device costs 3,800 yuan and is free with a monthly plan of at least 328 yuan.
China Mobile’s Beijing branch is also running a promotion for its 4G service that offers registrants priority access to unnamed “star models.”
The Web page features a picture of an apple, without making any reference to Cupertino, California-based Apple, or the iPhone. The page does not say which handset will be offered, or when.
More than 29,000 registrants have applied since the site went up yesterday, according to a counter displayed on the page.