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China to debut LTE-enabled iPad, iPad mini on Friday

updated 01:00 am EST, Tue January 15, 2013

Arrives ahead of major shopping holiday, Chinese New Year

Although the Wi-Fi version of the fourth-generation iPad line has been available in China since early December, this Friday will see the retail debut of the LTE-capable version of the iPad and iPad mini, just three weeks ahead of Chinese New Year. The iPad mini, already a hit in the country, is prominently featured on the Apple Gift Guide for the celebration, a major shopping holiday for the region. China granted the license to sell the LTE versions last month.

Both of the products have been adapted from the North American versions to use the CDMA2000 and WCDMA LTE bands used in those parts of the country where LTE service is available. The devices use 3G when LTE is not available, or Wi-Fi when it is present.

Both of Apple's present cellular partners, China Telecom and China Unicom, will also be selling the iPads, along with the online and retail Apple Stores in China. A deal with the top carrier,China Mobile, has not yet been reached -- though Apple CEO Tim Cook met with the chairman of the carrier, Xi Guahoa, last week during his trip to the country. The two companies have been working on a partnership for years, but appear to be closer than ever to working out an arrangement.

With its smaller form factor and lower price, the iPad mini has proven to be extremely popular in China, with analysts saying the country has shown an "insatiable demand" for the product since its initial launch. The iPad line overall is rumored to be accounting for up to 71 percent of all tablet sales in the country, even though competing products such as Samsung's Galaxy Note had previously been the top sellers. The iPhone 5 is also said to have taken the top spot from the Galaxy S III in the smartphone category in recent weeks.

Apple's online retail store prominently featured the iPads in its online gift guide for the Chinese New Year, which arrives in early February celebrating the "Year of the Snake." Chinese New Year is celebrated in China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and areas with sizeable Chinese populations, such as parts of the US and Canada.

For the holiday, Apple's store is offering free shipping and gift wrapping, as it is very traditional to offer presents to spouses and loved ones. In China itself, the holiday is known as the "Spring Festival" and is feted over the course of a week or longer.

by MacNN Staff



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