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October 31, 2009

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Unicom sells iPhone without key Wi-Fi feature

APPLE'S iPhone made its long-awaited formal debut in the world's most populous mobile phone market, without a key feature and at higher prices than widely available black market models.

Apple's local partner, China Unicom Ltd, hopes the sleek smartphone will give it an edge against giant rival China Mobile Ltd, the world's biggest phone company by subscribers.

Unicom started selling iPhones equipped for third-generation service last night at 2,000 stores in areas as far-flung as Tibet. Chinese news reports say Unicom hopes to sell 5 million in three years, but the company declined to confirm that.

"Ever since we first launched the iPhone, we greatly anticipated bringing it to China," Greg Joswiak, an Apple vice president, said at a Beijing shopping mall.

Unicom's first iPhones lack Wi-Fi, a handicap with sophisticated, demanding Chinese buyers. The technology, a key part of the iPhone's appeal, allows the phones in other markets to use free wireless networks in cafes and offices to download e-mail and the latest applications.



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