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In the wake of the latest comments from China Unicom CEO Chang Xiaobing (stating that China Unicom and Apple are engaged in discussions over the possibility of delivering an “official” WiFi-enabled iPhone to China) there were rumors that China Unicom would drop the price of the current iPhone models, which have no WiFi capability (no WiFi chip – disabled at the hardware level). These price drop rumors (down 20-30% depending on model) can apparently be traced to a Bank America/Merrill Lynch source … or so says the Beijing Morning News (< translated from Mandarin).

China Unicom says “not so!” … there are no plans to lower the official China Unicom (Apple) iPhone price. In theory, a substantial price drop might signal “inventory clearing” for a new model iPhone. But evidently a price drop is not imminent, and if it happens, it could be months down the road.

Sidebar: Earlier this week, China Unicom announced they will launch a new Android 2.0-powered smartphone — Motorola XT701 — that will support WCDMA 3G, and the Wi-Fi/WAPI stack.

Apple has made a habit of launching new model iPhones in the summer and it would not be a stretch to imagine a “fourth generation” iPhone making an appearance circa July/Aug/Sept 2010.  This might also be the most logical time to unveil a new model(s) iPhone for China. If a new “special production run” for China is in the cards, it might (or might not) include both WAPI and WiFi. Read more background re > WAPI/WiFi on iPhone

There have been several unsubstantiated rumors in the tech blogosphere about Apple launching a low-price iPhone model for China and other large “pre-paid” (no cellular contract) markets such as Brazil, India, Indonesia, Russia, et. al.. There has also been plenty of Net “buzz” (wild rumors) about a so-called “World iPhone” that might support CDMA 3G and GSM/UMTS 3G (China Unicom’s WCDMA 3G is a GSM standard). Many tech pundits dismiss the possibility of a CDMA capable iPhone, as it’s “yesterday’s” 3G technology. However, a CDMA model could work on Verizon’s network in the US and also on China Telecom’s CDMA 2000 3G network in China. It would be interesting to see a low-price “World iPhone” that supports the CDMA/GSM/UMTS + WAPI/WiFi tandem. Alas, there are many technical, practical and political hurdles to overcome in launching such a World iPhone and I won’t be holding my breath. But sometin’ new is coming … that you can bank on.

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