What's Really Behind the iPhone's China Problem

Among the markets that Apple hasn't quite been able to crack with their iPhone, China has to be the most frustrating. It's a huge opportunity that's being missed. And now we finally know exactly why.

Of course, the black market has always played a role, as have cheap and widely available knock-off products and increasingly tarnished supplier public image. But the real problem, according to a recent survey in the WSJ? Apple's feckless carrier partner, China Unicom.

Less than 10% of survey respondents—mobile users between 22 and 32—are signed up with China Unicom, and the majority of those that are self-identified as dissatisfied customers. Rival carrier China Mobile, however, was thought to be more reliable and to provide better coverage by 95% of those surveyed.

There are other factors at play, of course; less wireless penetration in China than in the US, that black/gray market opportunity, the mandatory two-year contract. But—as Google learned, in part, with the Nexus One—important to remember the impact that a carrier can have on the fate of a phone, and that unpopular partners lead to unpopular products. [WSJ]