Apple’s iPhone launched in China this morning, but the introduction of the hot US product has hit a little snag – the first iterations to reach market lack WiFI, even though local law was recently changed to permit inclusion of support for the standard.
Carrier, China Unicom, has reportedly contracted to buy five million iPhones at a cost of $1.5 billion. The ban on WiFi was enforced by central government in Beijing, but lifted in May – when manufacturing of the device had begun.
Lack of the standard may give some Chinese consumers the perception that they are being sold a sub-par version of the product, impacting sales.
A Unicom spokesman, Yi Difei, said the company hopes to have WiFi in the next batch of phones: "We are talking with Apple and expect the problem to be solved by the end of this year," he said.
Unicom’s prices range from 4,999 yuan ($730) to 6,999 yuan ($1,025) for the high-end, 32-gigabyte iPhone 3GS. This poses a second challenge for Apple in China – unlocked grey import iPhones (with WiFi) cost around 5,700 yuan ($835) in China’s street markets.
The availability of unlocked iPhones and the lack of WiFi could impact Apple’s success in this new territory.