updated 01:48 pm EDT, Wed May 30, 2012
Official debut could be just weeks away
Chinese officials have cleared an unnamed Apple device "with 3G and high-speed wireless data capabilities," confirmed to be the latest iPad, for sale in China, reports The Wall Street Journal. The license means that Apple can finally debut the 2012 iPad in China, even though the country's mobile infrastructure is primarily oriented around 3G data and cannot yet take advantage of the iPad's LTE and enhanced 3G networking technologies.
The mainland does not expect to complete a roll-out of LTE-type "4G" services for another two to three years, though it did recently allow some testing of TD-LTE technology through a partnership with Intel and Huawei, and there is LTE service available in Hong Kong. The LTE radio in the iPad is tuned for North American LTE frequencies and is incompatible with most LTE networks outside Canada and the US, which has gotten Apple into some marketing trouble in other countries.
China's Telecommunications Equipment Certification Center did not actually list the device as the 2012 iPad, but instead referred to it as an Apple device with "model number A1430," which corresponds to the new iPad. Traditionally, vendors being selling approved devices in China a few weeks after formal notice. The Wi-Fi only version of the iPad was approved for sale at the end of March, but Apple appears to be waiting until both models are available before selling them in China.
China will be among the last major countries to get the latest iPad, though Apple and Chinese officials have offered no explanation of the delay. Apple is currently in court in China fighting with original "IPAD" trademark holders Proview over the rights to the name. Proview has offered a bait-and-switch defense, claiming various stories but mostly that Apple bought the trademark from a division that was not authorized to sell it, therefore the company retains the rights to the name. Apple has had mixed success in Chinese courts on the issue, but maintains that it has proof of legal purchase of the trademark and that Proview is simply not honoring their agreement.
The case is now in the Chinese equivalent of the Circuit Court of Appeals and the judge in the matter has encouraged the two companies to reach a settlement rather than proceed with a judgement. A ruling against Apple could conceivably halt sales of the iPad, at least in China, and stop shipments of new iPads to destinations worldwide.
China has been a region of special interest to Apple due to its rapid growth in the country. Revenue from China has tripled over the last year, with iPhone sales quintupling (doubling in just the past quarter) and making China one of the largest markets for Apple, even though it has a minority share there.
The latest iPhone models are already available in China and have successfully bolstered results from the two carriers that provide it, China Unicom and China Telecom. The country's largest carrier, China Mobile, does not yet officially carry the iPhone but is said to be in talks with Apple once again to get it, and already has 15 million "grey market" iPhone subscribers, who are currently restricted to using China Mobile's 2G data network.
The latest iPad, once it goes on sale, is expected to boost sales of 3G data contracts in the country. Demand for the latest iPad from China was such that would-be resellers were lined up at the US debut of the iPad in order to buy them and smuggle them back into China, usually via Taiwan or Hong Kong. [via The Wall Street Journal]