Reuters: Analyst: China Unicom: Chinese iPhone Deal to Be Announced Friday

| iPhone

China Unicom will announce a long-expected deal with Apple to sell the iPhone in China on Friday. This news comes to us in a roundabout way: Reuters sourced an anonymous analyst who in turn cited an unnamed China Unicom source.

A deal with China Unicom has long been expected since local and regional China Unicom employees began leaking the news earlier in August of this year. Apple has been negotiating with Chinese telecoms, including China Mobile, for some time, but various snags -- including a requirement of the Chinese government that the iPhone not include WiFi capabilities -- have gotten in the way of a deal.

China Unicom subsidiaries began telling news sources early in August that a deal had been reached, that employees were being trained, and that the deal included an agreement to buy some 5 million iPhones. Company execs at China Unicom's headquarters have denied such a deal, however, and Apple was, as ever, mum.

The story gained legs earlier today when the Wall Street Journal reported that a deal had been reached, and the it could result in the sale of 2.9 million iPhones in 2011. The Wall Street Journal's source was one Toni Saccohaghi, an analyst with a mixed record on Apple prognostications.

Officially, China Unicom said only that the iPhone would no doubt be the topic of conversation when the firm discussed its most recent financial performance, while Apple was, as ever, mum. Neither offered confirmation (or denial) of the new Friday's the Day story.

If a Chinese iPhone deal is announced on Friday, it is not expected that the devices would be available immediately in that market, but rather as early as October or as late as some time in 2010, depending on which wave of rumors and leaked stories one takes a fancy to.

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I am skeptical that an Apple/China Unicom iPhone deal announcement will come on Friday as there are likely two iPhones in the approval pipeline ? models A1324 and A1325. The WiFi-enabled model (A1325) may still be in CTTL testing and Apple may not want to make a deal official until both iPhones have received their network access license, which could take another month or so.

Apple may also be having renewed converations with China Mobile ? yes there?s ?something? to this rumor. Two China iPhone carrier deals would not be a surprise.

That said ? it would not be a shock for an August China Unicom iPhone announcement. This deal w Unicom has been in the works since March. Adding fuel to this ?imminent announcement? rumor is a post today via JLM Pacific Epoch ? an ?authoritative? insider says that Unicom will announce the iPhone?s release on Friday.

More background:
China iPhone Saga: As the iPhone Turns >
Apple still talking with China Mobile? Yes, No, Maybe >

Constable Odo

Two versions of iPhones would be a big deal.  I supposed the WiFi enabled one will be a lot more expensive.  I’d heard this two version rumor before, but didn’t pay too much attention since almost every rumor seemed like it had been bogus.  All the rumors point to an iPhone deal, but they’ve been around too long and I’m fairly tired of listening to these rumors of imminent announcement.


via Forbes China ? “A spokeswoman for China Unicom, the country?s No. 2 mobile player, confirmed that the company will discuss its iPhone deal with Apple during a scheduled Friday press conference to report its half-year earnings. She declined to disclose whether Unicom has in fact signed an agreement with Apple.”

The two iPhones (one w WAPI/WiFi) appears to have legs. Now multiple sources albeit anonymous. It’s never a done deal in China (until its done) as MIIT could always play a game with licensure ... but there are now other handset manufacturers planning to launch dual WAPI/WiFi handsets and I suspect Apple saw too much danger in playing on a competitive foreign field w/o WiFi ... so they’ll deal w some of the issues/costs associated with WAPI and go with a dual WAPI/WiFi model.

It’s looking likely that the second model w WiFi (A1325) has at least been submitted to CTTL for testing. The published image on China’s National Radio Transmission Authoritiy website also adds credence to this

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