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China Unicom (CHU) announced on September 28 that it will begin selling Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone in China on October 1. China Unicom is China’s second largest mobile phone operator. (For more on how the Chinese players line up and the coming battle between Apple and Google (GOOG) in China see my August 6 post http://jubakpicks.com/2009/08/06/apple-and-google-go-head-to-head-in-chinas-mobile-phone-market/ )

Unicom said it will start selling 3G iPhones for 5,000 renminbi or $732, although the company didn’t say what model it would sell. 

China Mobile (CHL), the country’s biggest mobile operator, is set to begin selling the 3G OPhone, based on Google’s (GOOG) Android operating system, although the timing of that launch is still vague.

China Telecom (CHA), the smallest of China’s mobile operators, is in talks with Resarch in Motion (RIMM) to sell the Blackberry.

The question is, of course, how many consumers in China will buy an iPhone considering what seems to be a very high price?

But that seemingly high pice can suddenly get much, much lower once you sign a service contract.

As in the United States, how much you actually pay for an iPhone will depend on what kind of contract you sign with the the mobile operator. The Financial Times reports that on Sina, China’s biggest Internet portal, a 3GS iPhone with 32 gigabytes of memory sells for anything from 0 to 5,000 renminbi depending on the contract you sign. In the United States that iPhone goes for $299 from AT (t) with a two-year contact.

Meanwhile, back in the United Kingdom, Apple has ended its exclusive sales agreement with O2, the country’s largest mobile phone operator. Orange, the third largest mobile operator, will sell the iPhone in time for Christmas shopping.

O2 had been the exclusive seller for iPhones starting in 2007, but the two-year exclusivity clause in that agreement lapsed this year. 

I’m not sure this means that in the United States Apple will end AT&T ‘s exclusive right to sell the iPhone in 2010 when the deal comes up for renegotiation. But if I were Verizon (VZ) or some other U.S. oprator looking to get in on the iPhone action next year, I’d be more hopeful than I was before Apple added Orange to O2.