China Unicom Hopes to Sell Wi-Fi iPhone (“Hopes” Being the Operative Word Here)
A quick update on Apple’s relationship with China Unicom, the company’s carrier partner in China.
According to China Unicom Chairman Chang Xiaobing, the two companies are discussing plans to debut a Wi-Fi-enabled version of the iPhone, something they couldn’t do previously because of a government regulation prohibiting the sale of Wi-Fi devices that don’t support China’s Wired Authentication and Privacy Infrastructure wireless standard.
Evidently, Beijing has recently revised that regulation and now permits the sale of Wi-Fi phones in the country as long as they also support WAPI, and this change has reignited talks between the two companies.
“I know that in the market there is hope we will offer an iPhone with Wi-Fi,” Xiaobing told reporters attending the annual session of the National People’s Congress. “We have been holding talks with Apple in this area.”
Whether the talks go anywhere is another question. As Dan Butterfield observes at iPhonAsia, an iPhone that supports two different wireless standards would require Apple (AAPL) to customize the device for the Chinese market, something it has been loath to do in the past.
“It runs against Apple’s DNA to build a special model iPhone solely for one market…even if that market is China,” Butterfield writes.
“But,” adds Butterfield, “…never say never! The current model iPhone for China Unicom is already a special production run (no WiFi chip + many ‘for China’ apps preloaded). If China Unicom commits to a sufficiently large iPhone pre-purchase, then Apple may entertain the idea of a WAPI/WiFi iPhone.”