Apple iPhone Deal With China Unicom Imminent?

Fortune summarizes recent fast-moving developments in reports of Apple and China Unicom's negotiations to bring the iPhone to China. While an initial story out of China claimed that the two companies had reached a three-year deal, subsequent reports cited a China Unicom representative who stated that no agreement had been reached and that discussions were still ongoing.

First Shanghai Security News reported that Apple (AAPL) had reached a three-year deal with China Unicom to market the iPhone in the world's largest cellphone market (600 million-plus subscribers).

Then AFP and Reuters reported what China Unicom's spokesperson told them: that the two companies were still in negotiations and no agreement had been reached (something, by the way, any company dealing with Apple will say before Cupertino has had a chance to break the news itself).

Fortune then points to iPhonAsia.com, which provides some details on the rumored agreement, along with a supposed late September launch date.

- The Apple and China Unicom deal will be a 3-year exclusive.*
- The iPhone will be customized for the China market (e.g. Chinese language and preloaded with "for China" apps).
- China Unicom will pay Apple 3,000 CNY ($439 USD) per unit.
- China Unicom will subsidize iPhone by pricing the iPhone below the 3,000 CNY paid to Apple. This would take the official iPhone price below the grey-market price for smuggled iPhones.
- China Unicom has promised to sell a minimum 1 million units per year with significantly higher sales targets.
- The iPhone for China will make use of Apples China App Store.

*There is no mention of the terms of exclusivity, such as whether this will be for all iPhones or 3G models only? (leaving the door open for an unlocked 2G model in 2010/11 for all carriers).

Recent reports have claimed that a China-specific version of the iPhone lacking Wi-Fi connectivity is already in production.

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