China May Soon Get iPhone 3G

Apple has reportedly reached a deal to bring the popular touch-screen smartphone to China Unicom in May.
Apple may soon have access to another rapidly growing audience, as its iPhone 3G is reportedly set to debut in the Chinese market in May.

Apple was in high-profile negotiations more than a year ago with China Mobile, which has more than 500 million subscribers. One thorny issue is that China Mobile will be the biggest proponent of TD-SCDMA 3G, which is a homegrown standard. The iPhone 3G utilizes the more common WCDMA 3G standard, which means the touch-screen smartphone would possibly have to come out without 3G and Wi-Fi.

The latest reports suggest that Apple would be bringing its smartphone to China Unicom, which is deploying a 3G network using the WCDMA standard. While Unicom has significantly fewer subscribers than China Mobile, getting any presence in China could boost Apple's bottom line.

With the overall mobile market expected to decline in 2009, China is becoming increasingly important due to the sheer number of potential customers. While most of the users have low-end phones capable of voice and text messaging, they're quickly upgrading to sophisticated handsets like the iPhone. According to In-Stat, there's already an estimated 400,000 unlocked Apple handsets in the country, as well as countless iPhone clones.

While the iPhone 3G has high margins and has sold well for Apple, the company still trails competitors like Microsoft, Nokia, and Research In Motion in terms of market share. Getting into new markets is crucial for Apple, as the number of iPhones sold decreased last quarter because users generally don't buy new handsets as often as they would other consumer electronic devices like iPods.

The increased adoption of smartphones can boost employees' productivity, but it can also lead to headaches for IT department. InformationWeek has published a report on the best practices for managing a fleet of smartphones. Download the report (registration required).