China Unicom and Apple have reportedly signed an agreement to launch a specially-built version of the iPhone in China, perhaps as early as September.
The report, published by China Business Network, credits Hon Hai — the world’s largest manufacturer of electronics components and Apple’s long-time partner — with helping to broker the deal.
Under its terms, Hon Hai — using its tradename Foxconn — will build a special version of the iPhone for the Chinese market with Wi-Fi disabled, allowing Apple to get around Beijing’s restrictions on handsets with high-speed internet capability.
There were several independent reports last week that Hon Hai is already manufacturing the modified iPhones and that the China Telecommunication Technology Labs have begun mandatory testing.
Such tests are required by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and usually take at least a month, which is why the phone is not expected to reach Chinese consumers much before September.
Fortune Brainstorm Tech goes on about the tremendous potential market for Apple’s iPhone. Using conservative estimates it suggests that Apple can capture a full 2% share of the wireless market in China within the first 12 months of an official iPhone launch. That’s 14 million iPhones.