updated 12:26 pm EDT, Wed September 5, 2012
Would halt cycle of long delays in Chinese launches
Sources inside China Unicom are claiming that the iPhone 5 could launch with the carrier by the end of the year, according to Sohu IT. The people say that executives, including deputy general manager Li Gang, have finished a successful negotiation round with Apple, and expect the phone to be available on Unicom before 2013. The deal is said to have been struck based on a successful visit to the US in August.
Mainland China has traditionally lagged behind the US and Europe in getting new iPhones; the first model to show up in the region, in fact, was the iPhone 3GS. The iPhone 4 and 4S launched in China several months after they did in North America. The country has become increasingly important to Apple profits though, and shipping earlier there could reduce the impact of gray- and black-market sales.
If the iPhone 5 launches on Unicom in 2012, it will also likely show up with rival China Telecom at the same time, since Apple avoids staggering carrier introductions if a company has already sold iPhones before. Still missing from the picture is China Mobile, the world's largest cellular carrier; while the company has been working on getting the iPhone for some time, launch timing is thought be contingent on building out a compatible LTE network.
The iPhone 5 is generally expected to have LTE. Apple is set to announce the device at a September 12th press event in San Francisco. If patterns established with the 4 and 4S hold up, it should go on sale in the US, Canada, and several other countries by the end of the month, with international rollouts following in later weeks.