updated 04:10 pm EDT, Fri July 10, 2009
Chinese iPhone in months?
(Updated with Wi-Fi info) A Chinese iPhone is due by the end of the year, and possibly sooner, according to Wedge Partners. The research firm says it has performed a series of checks, which reveal that China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has received an iPhone for testing. Apple should thus be in position to receive a network license in 2009, possibly within three to four months.
The major complication remains the lack of a carrier deal, though the prospect of a license may spur faster negotiations, analysts at Wedge suggest. No added progress is said to have been made in talks with China Unicom, generally considered to be the leading candidate for hosting iPhones in the region; the company is the only one with an iPhone-compatible 3G network, and it is thought to be more willing to submit to Apple demands. Other reports have claimed that China Mobile is persisting in negotiations, wielding the benefit of having more than three times Unicom's subscriber base.
Update: Wedge analyst Matt Mathison adds that the phone received by the MIIT appears to lack Wi-Fi reception. The Chinese government has traditionally objected to Wi-Fi on cellphones, as much over potential revenue loss to VoIP as the desire for a surveillance state. The country recently, however, began allowing Wi-Fi on phones with the proprietary WAPI standard, which could in theory be supported by an iPhone. Apple may have been forced to remove Wi-Fi due to strict restrictions on who can carry WAPI.