Chinese government regulators have rebuked China Unicom for its new guidelines restricting contracts for Apple's iPhone 4. The guidelines were instituted Wednesday in order to curb rampant scalping of both the iPhone and prepaid microSIM cards.
Apple is attempting to block scalpers by instituting new restrictions preventing walk-in sales of the iPhone at Apple Stores in China. Customers must first reserve an iPhone on Apple's website before visiting an Apple Retail Store to complete the purchase.
When the iPhone 4 went on sale in China last week, scalpers immediately began taking advantage of Apple's limited stock, offering the device to customers with a 10 percent markup and apparently causing a fight with regular customers at one store.
Sales of the iPhone 4 by China Unicom hit 100,000 in the first four days of availability. Another 100,000 customers will have to wait until as late as the end of October for their preorders to be fulfilled.
Apple announced Sunday that the iPhone 4 will be available in China starting Saturday, September 25 at 8 a.m. The launch will coincide with the openings of the Hong Kong Plaza Apple Store in Shanghai and the Xidan Joy City Apple Store in Beijing.
An updated iPhone with support for the Chinese national standard for Wi-Fi has received regulatory approval in China, while in the U.S. Apple was awarded a patent for ownership of the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS design.
Online electronics discount stores in Japan have reportedly been asked by Apple to cease sales of iPods, Macs and other products. Also, China Unicom may cut the price of the iPhone by 1,000 yuan, or nearly $150, in an effort to boost sales.
China Unicom net profits fell 73 percent last quarter after the company failed to significantly increase its 3G subscriber base, despite the fact that it is the sole carrier of Apple's iPhone in the world's most populous nation.
Fearing growing competition from its smaller rivals, iPhone holdout China Mobile is reaching out to Apple this month in hopes that the mobile device maker will concede to building support for Beijing's proprietary 3G standard into its next-generation handset.
While the first version of the iPhone released in China came without Wi-Fi due to a temporary ban on the wireless standard, Apple is expected to remedy the situation with a new handset model in the near future.