China Mobile Seeking Cut-Down Version of Apple's iPhone
China Mobile is expected to officially launch the Apple iPhone on its network shortly - but with some of the functionality removed to comply with Chinese regulations. The South China Morning Post, citing a report from the Daiwa Institute of Research said that the 3G and Wi-Fi services would be disabled on the Chinese model.
Daiwa analyst Calvin Huang said that Taiwan Hon Hai Precision Industry, which is responsible for assembling iPhone products for Apple, is waiting for verification from the mainland to ship the phone without W-CDMA and Wi-Fi functions.
As China Mobile is widely expected to have to build outs its eventual 3G network using the Chinese developed TD-SCDMA format, disabling the 3G functionality would make it less appealing to users who might buy the handset and unlock it to be used on the expected W-CDMA network from China Telecom.
"Apple shouldn't customise a model of iPhone for the mainland market, given that it only provides a standardised product to operators around the world," Frederick Wong, a BNP Paribas analyst told the newspaper - although making the unit compatible with the Chinese language would be quite a customisation anyway.
China Mobile has been in on/off talks with Apple ever since the iPhone was launched. The talks broke down in January but resumed again in July.
"The talks with Apple to launch the iPhone device in China have resumed because Apple is not insisting on revenue-sharing anymore," China Mobile Ltd. spokeswoman Rainie Lei said at the time.
According to figures supplied by China Mobile to research firm In-Stat earlier this year, there were over 400,000 unlocked Apple iPhones being detected on its network.
In-Stat says that it has never doubted that the iPhone will achieve greater success than iPod in China if Apple teams with China Mobile to launch its Chinese version. There are two reasons. Firstly, different from the US where the smartphone market is fairly limited, appealing primarily to business users, The smartphone market in China, though, is an entertainment-oriented individual consumer market. The main reasons that Chinese mobile users purchase smartphones include entertainment (such as music players, cameras and video) and to access mobile Internet applications (such as IM, e-book, and games).
The company also estimates that 20% of handsets sold in China in 2007 cost more than 4,000 RMB (US$533). In another words, there are an estimated 28 million potential users for the iPhone in China.
On the web: South China Morning Post