China Unicom Begins Sales of Wi-Fi Crippled iPhones

The iPhone has finally reached China, or rather, the iPhone has finally officially reached China. There were plenty of unlocked iPhones invading China's GSM networks, but only Friday was it on the China Unicom network legitimately.

The first shipments manufactured for China Unicom, however, are missing wi-fi. It wasn't until May, after manufacturing of the device had begun, that Beijing lifted the existing wi-fi ban on devices.

This will create problems for China Unicom, which has reportedly contracted with Apple for 5 million iPhones. China Unicom hopes to have wi-fi in its next large batch of iPhones, saying: "We are talking with Apple and expect the problem to be solved by the end of this year."

Until then, though, what? China Unicom also is at a price disadvantage: unlocked grey import iPhones (with wi-fi, no less) cost around 5,700 yuan ($835) in China’s street markets, while China Unicom charges from 4,999 yuan ($730) to 6,999 yuan ($1,025) for the high-end, 32 GB iPhone 3GS.

So the question: an unlocked iPhone for less money, or official iPhone, tied to one carrier, for more money. Which would you choose? To be honest, even with the wi-fi feature, the fact that the unlocked iPhone goes for less creates an issue for Apple, as well as China Unicom.

In other countries, unlocked iPhones go for more, and far more than a locked version. This backwards set-up in China may prove to be difficult to overcome.