updated 08:20 am EDT, Fri July 31, 2009
China Unicom iPhone Photo
An iPhone running on China Unicom's network has been seen in a set of photos (since edited) that appears to confirm reports of the carrier nearing a deal to carry the device in the Asian country. The handset shown by Sina appears to be a stock 16GB iPhone 3GS in most respects but, beyond showing "China Unicom" as the carrier identifier, shows Chinese characters on the back and makes a reference to the WCDMA 3G standard. While just a different way of referring to the UMTS format found in most parts of the world, the naming isn't found on any other iPhone released to date.
The Settings section of the iPhone also doesn't show Wi-Fi and supports repeated claims that China Unicom would be forced to remove Wi-Fi under Chinese government policy that discourages using the short-range networking technology.
While the Chinese publication claims the phone shows there is 'no doubt' China Unicom is receiving the handset, the device is most likely there to test compatibility and performance before committing to a deal. The provider itself has said there were still negotiations underway for an agreement, which most believe could last for three years and would guarantee at least one million iPhone sales per year.
Many had originally expected the iPhone to land at China Mobile, the country's largest single carrier and the one endorsed by Chinese officials. However, the government requires that upcoming 3G phones on China Mobile use the locally-made TD-SCDMA standard that Apple doesn't support at all and which would require a new cellular chipset, complicating production. [via PCWorld]