China can't touch South Korea -- or, at least so far as the iPhone is concerned.
Carrier KT Corp. (NYSE: KTC ) pre-sold 65,000 handsets before the iPhone's debut weekend on the peninsula, according to The Wall Street Journal. China Unicom (NYSE: CHU ) sold 60,000 less during its opening sales weekend a month ago.
Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) should nevertheless be pleased. China Unicom's failure is less a failure of the device as it is of the carrier and government policy. Cheaper, more functional iPhones have been widely available in Beijing's gray market for a while. Many of them operate via China Mobile's (NYSE: CHL ) vast network.
Others are simply buying from the U.S. "Its about 3500 Yuan, or $500 cheaper to get a contract with AT&T (NYSE: T ) , break it, pay the cancellation fee, ship it to China, get it unlocked, and use it as a normal phone," wrote a commenter to the Journal story named "Brandon."
If KT Corp. is doing better in South Korea -- home to global electronics superstars Samsung and LG -- it may because it's taking China Unicom's strategy and reversing it. For example, KT is offering some iPhone models free, and monthly plan rates range between $38 and $115, the Journal reports. Such pricing has KT predicting it will sell up to a half-million iPhones to its customers.
And where is SK Telecom (NYSE: SKM ) in all this? On the sidelines, with executives waiting and evaluating whether they want to strike a deal with Apple. Let's hope they don't wait too long. KT Corp.'s customers aren't exactly proving to be patient.
But that's my take. Do you agree? Should SK Telecom book a deal with Apple soon? Please vote in the poll below. You can also sound off in the comments section at the bottom.