updated 12:50 pm EDT, Thu August 5, 2010
iPhone 3GS to get Wi-Fi in China next week
Apple will finally have the option of selling the iPhone 3GS in China with true Wi-Fi, an anonymous China Unicom official leaked out Thursday. Starting next week, the carrier should have the current 8GB model with the wireless feature finally enabled. It's not clear how the phone would be priced, but Apple has usually priced the phone elsewhere at the equivalent of $99 locked or better.
Plans for an iPhone 4 launch also weren't as clear, but Apple is promoting the iPhone 4 on its Chinese site.
China first received official iPhones last year, but Apple was hampered by then-standing regulations that required it disable the Wi-Fi. China's government has usually promoted the similar but largely incompatible WAPI layer and wouldn't allow Apple to sell the iPhone 3GS in the country without the option. Apple has regularly objected to making separate versions of phones unless absolutely necessary.
Observers have partly blamed modest official iPhone sales in the country on the decision t opull Wi-Fi rather than accommodate WAPI. As the factories to make iPhones are located in China and neighboring Hong Kong has had ready access, locals have had an easy time obtaining phones that often cost less and still have Wi-Fi enabled.
The attitude has helped Android get an early grip on the Chinese market, where Lenovo and others have sold mostly unimpeded through their willingness to bend to government rules and wider reach. Apple's dependence on GSM has left it with no choice but to use China Unicom