Apple has unexpectedly begun selling unlocked iPhone 3G units in Hong Kong, amidst reports that mainland China may end up receiving a functionally handicapped model. Apple’s online store for Hong Kong is now offering both the 8GB and 16GB models of the handset unlocked, priced at HK$ 5,400 (~$695) and HK$ 6,200 (~$798), respectively. A description on the product page reads: “iPhone 3G purchased at the Apple Online Store can be activated with any wireless carrier. Simply insert the SIM from your current phone into iPhone 3G and connect to iTunes 8 to complete activation.” It is believed that this is the first instance of Apple offering the iPhone 3G directly from its online store.
Meanwhile, the South China Morning Post is reporting that Hon Hai, the manufacturer of the iPhone, is waiting for verification from mainland China to ship versions of the iPhone 3G that lack both W-CDMA (3G) connectivity and Wi-Fi. According to the report, China Mobile (long reported to be Apple’s carrier of choice for the Chinese market) is expected to build out its 3G network using the TD-SCDMA format, which is incompatible with current iPhone 3G models. The report goes on to state that iPhone units offered by China Mobile would have the W-CDMA stripped out so they could not be unlocked and used on competitor China Telecom, which is expected to use W-CDMA technology for its 3G services.