Apple to Sell Unlockable iPhones in China?

BusinessWeek is reporting on a recent assertion from Matt Mathison, a Wedge Partners research analyst. Mathison suggests that Apple is negotiating a deal with Chinese retailer Di Xing Tong, so they can sell unlockable iPhones. This would allow Apple to be used on other carriers in China, namely China Mobile.

Despite ongoing talk about possible tie-up with the mother of all cellular carriers, China Mobile, equity research firm Wedge Partners believes Apple may have found a new way to sell iPhones to some of the carrier’s half-a-billion subscribers. Wedge’s managing principal, Matt Mathison, thinks Apple will ink a deal with a large cell-phone retailer called Di Xing Tong, which owns hundreds of storefronts in China. The chain is owned by Foxconn, the massive contract manufacturer that builds so many of Apple’s products.

This comes after the public announcement of a deal between Apple and China Unicom to bring the iPhone to China. This deal was later confirmed to be non-exclusive, meaning Apple could also use other cellular partners to deliver data service to iPhone customers.

There is a catch. China Mobile just announced their own phone OS called Ophone. This OS would compete with iPhone, thus making a formal contract between the Apple and China Mobile unlikely. So, the more likely path would be that Apple would sell unlockable phones through retailers, and turn a blind eye to unlocked iPhones. All of this being a plan to increase market share in China.

My opinion? Well, this sounds very “un-Apple”, but I almost buy it, simply because there is a lot of market share to grab in China.

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