China Unicom working with Apple on Wi-Fi iPhone

China Unicom is working with Apple to build a Wi-Fi-capable version of the iPhone for the Chinese market, according to comments from Unicom chairman Chang Xiaobing. During initial negotiations between the two companies, Chinese regulations required handset makers to use a homegrown standard called WAPI for wireless Internet instead of Wi-Fi, causing Apple to remove the feature from iPhones bound for the Chinese market. These regulations were later revised to allow for Wi-Fi alongside WAPI, but only after Apple had finished its redesign of the phone. According to a Wall Street Journal report, Chang’s comments to reporters indicate that the revision in policy has opened the door for a new model of iPhone with Wi-Fi capability. Without giving a specific timetable for the arrival of the new model, Chang did say that if the new model is introduced the company would consider compensating current iPhone users by allowing them greater use of China Unicom’s 3G network. China Unicom launched the iPhone in China in October 2009, and had sold 300,000 units as of December 29.

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