China May Get iPhone This Year

Apple may have to drop Wi-Fi from the touch-screen smartphone before it starts selling in China.
Apple has applied for a network access license in China, which means the company could begin offering the iPhone within six months, according to a report from research firm Wedge Partners.

The research firm said the application usually takes four to six months to be approved, which puts the launch date at the end of the year. One of the major sticking points in negotiations has been China's insistence that the device be sold without Wi-Fi. Apple wanted to keep this in to maintain a certain type of user experience, but it has apparently relented.

Apple did not comment on the Wedge Partners report, but during the company's last earnings call COO Tim Cook said Apple "would like to be in China within the next year and we're clearly working on that." While the iPhone has continued to sell well, Apple still trails competitors like Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, and Research In Motion in overall market share. Getting into a new and large market like China could be a big boost for Apple's bottom line.

The overall mobile market is expected to decline by as much 10% this year due to the global economic recession, but the Chinese market is still seen as having a lot of potential due to the size of its population. The country's biggest carrier, China Mobile, has well over 500 million subscribers, and there's room for growth.

The vast majority of Chinese subscribers use entry-level handsets that are capable of making calls and receiving texts, but users are quickly upgrading to sophisticated handsets that can be used as media devices and to surf the mobile Web. An In-Stat estimate said there are already approximately 400,000 unlocked iPhones in the country, as well as multiple iPhone clones.

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