Apple seeks more distributors as deal with Unicom to end

Mobile communication distributor Telling Telecom Holding Co signed an agreement with Apple Inc last month to become an authorized retailer of its digital products like the iPhone, the company reported in a statement posted on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange Thursday.

The news comes as Apple‘s exclusive distribution agreement with China Unicom is set to wind down early this year.

At the end of 2010, Apple selected three IT distributors – Changhong IT, Beijing Founder Century and ECS Technology (China) Ltd – to become sales outlets for unbundled iPhone 4s.

Although the Telling statement did not provide any additional details about specifically which Apple products the Shenzhen-based company will market, one industry watcher said the most popular iPhone 4 and the long awaited iPad 3G are expected to be key products.

“The agreement did not disclose whether the iPhone 4 and the iPad are part of the deal, mainly because Apple needs to keep good relations with China Unicom, the largest volume retailer of iPhone 4s in the country to date,” Ji Chendong, an IT analyst with Frost & Sullivan, told the Global Times Thursday.

Neither Telling nor Apple could be reached for comment Thursday.

Apple announced the launch of its iPhone 4 in the Chinese mainland back in September, when China Unicom began retailing the devices.

The telecom operator started bundling the iPhone with its SIM card in December “to retain high-end customers,” Ji said. This way, if a consumer uses the iPhone with another operator’s SIM card, the users’ China Unicomcell number and phone itself will be locked.

Apple‘s moves to link up with a growing number of distributors appears to be part of a backup strategy as its exclusive agreement with China Unicom winds down, Ji said.

Despite the three IT distributors having inked agreements with Apple, none have received products from the IT giant because iPhone 4s are in short supply on the Chinese mainland.

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