Update: China Unicom spokesman Sophia Tso says an agreement hasn’t been reached yet, noting that “Discussions are still ongoing, we have not reached any formal agreement.”
After months of speculation, it appears that the iPhone will finally be coming to China in September. According to the Shanghai Securities News, Apple was able to secure a 3-year exclusive deal with China Unicom, the second largest mobile provider in the region with over 150 million subscribers.
For months now, there have been numerous reports of Apple unsuccessfully attempting to bring the iPhone to China. Initially, Apple attempted to close a deal with China Mobile and its 500 million strong subscriber base, but negotiations hit a sticking point over Apple’s insistence that it take a share of the monthly revenue from each iPhone user. When Apple eventually eliminated revenue sharing, things looked promising until reports surfaced which suggested that China Mobile wanted partial control over the iTunes App Store.
And so, much like how approached AT&T after being rebuffed by Verizon, Apple began negotiating with China Unicom. While those negotiations were also prone to a number of roadblocks, such as Apple being forced to cripple wi-fi access on the iPhone, the two sides have apparently reached an exclusive 3-year agreement that will have China Unicom purchase iPhones from Apple for $439 a pop in return for assurances that it’ll sell anywhere between 1-2 million devices each year.
Last Tuesday at Apple’s earnings conference call, Apple COO Tim Cook re-iterated that landing the iPhone in China was a top priority for Apple, and that it hoped to get the job done within 12 months. Turns out that it took only a week.