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China Unicom To Launch App Store

Unistore will offer mobile apps for smartphones and tablet computers.

China's second largest mobile operator, China Unicom, said it will launch an application store next month to increase the appeal of its 3G phones.

Called Unistore, the platform will launch in mid July and offer apps best used on smartphones and tablet computers. This makes China Unicom, which has 10 million 3G users, the latest mobile operator to join the app store fray. A senior executive expects the store to exceed 10 million downloads, but he did not give a timeline on hitting this milestone.

Of the three major operators, China Mobile was the first to introduce an application store, in August 2009. It has recently started expanding the reach of the store by placing access links on major Chinese portals. China Telecom brought out its app store in March 2010.

The store will not only support China Unicom users but will also be available to subscribers from China Mobile and China Telecom. The system has already been tested in Shanghai and will be rolled out nationwide during the official July launch.

The system will support all smartphone platforms, including Android, Windows Mobile, Symbian, Apple iPhone, and more. Currently, iPhone applications are only available legitimately through Apple's App Store, which in China requires a dual-currency credit card -- not very convenient to obtain for some users.

With the new system, there will be a variety of payment methods, such as via an "intermediate account," basically a prepayment process which can be topped either with talk-time credit or through third-party payment providers. Unicom will also offer standard terms to developers, where they get 70% of the application's price.

The mobile operator is currently in talks about application store cooperation with Taiwan's Chunghwa Telecom. The two sides may launch e-book sales to begin with and then expand into other areas later. The discussions were revealed at a cross-straits telecommunications industry conference in Beijing. Both operators were the first to sell iPhones in their respective territories.

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