Will the iPhone hit China sooner than expected?

Sat, Jul 11, 2009


According to the stock research firm Wedge Partners, Apple recently applied for a Network Access License in China which might soon pave the way for the iPhone to finally hit the streets of Shanghai.  Interestingly, Wedge Partners noted that the license application from Apple doesn’t reference an iPhone with wi-fi connectivity, a point worth mentioning because up until now, one of the roadblocks in Apple’s plan to get the iPhone into China has been a Chinese law which precludes the sale of wi-fi enabled mobile phones.  Apple, not surprisingly, wasn’t willing to compromise on that feature, and that coupled with other issues, such as control iTunes App Store, led to a stalemate between Apple and China-based mobile carriers such as China Mobile and Unicom.

Now that one of the major sticking points between Apple and China’s mobile carriers has supposedly been removed, Wedge analyst Matt Mathison believes that it’s only a matter of time before the iPhone arrives in China.  Mathison noted that under normal circumstances, the license applied for by Apple usually takes between 4 and 6 months to get accepted, paving the way for a launch “before the Spring Festival in [January] 2010.”

A few weeks back there were reports that Apple was planning on producing an iPhone model uniquely tailored for the Chinese market.  But now, Wedge notes that the Chinese version of the iPhone will run on the GSM network just like all other iPhone models, and will not be CDMA based.  As an aside, and assuming the above is true, if Apple isn’t willing to manufacture a CDMA capable iPhone for China, there doesn’t seem to be much hope that they’d do so to get the iPhone onto Verizon.

The last official mention from Apple about the iPhone coming to China happened last April during its 2Q earnings conference call when Apple COO Tim Cook mentioned that they’d like to have the iPhone reach China sometime within the next 12 months.

If there’s any merit to the report from Wedge Partners, Apple might be a full 3 months ahead of schedule.



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