We could really care less for the iPhone launching in China this month since it’s on the other side of the globe. However, what’s interesting is that they’re now also offering up an iPhone amnesty program initiated by Shanghai Unicom, a subsidiary of the iPhone’s official carrier China Unicom in the country.
Through the amnesty, owners of grey market iPhones can sign up on a contract without having to ditch their iPhone which will allow them to take advantage of all the services available for “legal” iPhone owners such as access to the official App Store and carrier-specific firmware updates. A rough estimate on grey market iPhones is currently pegged at 1.5 million with prices as low as $430 (iPhone 3G 8GB) to a high of $730 (iPhone 3G S). China Unicom will be selling the iPhone 3G 8GB for $732 while the iPhone 3G S is priced at $1,025. Needles to say, the grey market route looks more enticing for consumers wanting to get on-board the iPhone bandwagon which is probably why they came out with this amnesty program. Foreseeing that people will still prefer to get jailbroken iPhones through the grey market, they’re now using this to their advantage to sign up as many iPhone users as they can regardless of where they purchased it.
This will, no doubt, have a direct effect on the carrier’s iPhone sales, but it’s hard to dispute that this strategy can indeed help increase plan subscriptions. We’re not too sure though if this violates any legal stipulations in the contract between China Unicom and Apple, but for the record, this is the first time we’ve heard of such a program being offered by an official iPhone carrier. It’s quite an interesting move, and if it’s legal, it makes you wonder - why aren’t other iPhone carriers doing this?