updated 09:50 am EDT, Tue September 6, 2011
Device should finally move out of gray market
Apple should be on the verge of launching the 3G iPad 2 in mainland China, says the Wall Street Journal. An Apple device with the model number A1396 has won a network access license from China's Telecommunication Equipment Certification Center, clearing the way for sales. The hardware notably supports WCDMA 3G, making it compatible with Apple's (so far) exclusive mainland carrier partner, China Unicom.
While mainland iPad 2s are currently restricted to Wi-Fi, 3G models are already available through Hong Kong resellers. The discrepancy has helped to fuel a gray market for Apple products, one already swollen thanks to the iPhone. Unlocked iPhones are in high demand for use with China's largest carrier, China Mobile, despite network differences preventing people from using an iPhone's 3G with the carrier.
Apple may be hoping to short-circuit the gray market in the near future with the iPhone 5. The company is thought to be planning a Chinese launch which would happen alongside or shortly after the US one, deterring gray market exporters from plundering other countries' inventory. Apple also appears to be aiming for multiple carriers on the mainland, which might restrict the gray's market's appeal to lower prices and/or unlocked devices.