Apple is gearing up for what many expect to be a blockbuster holiday season, given how the Cupertino, Calif.-based computer company has released new versions for nearly all its best-selling items within the last two months, including new Macs, iPods, iPads, and a new iPhone. The latter device is expected to be the company's biggest seller during the holidays -- it usually is, with iPhone sales averaging roughly 45 percent of Apple's overall revenue -- but the company's 2012 model, the iPhone 5, has yet to go on sale in its second biggest market: China.
Many have wondered when the Chinese government will finally allow Apple to start selling its iPhone 5, and according to China Telecom, currently the country's third largest telecommunications provider, the iPhone 5 may be released to the Chinese public in a matter of weeks, if not sooner.
As noted by the Wall Street Journal, in an interview held during the Communist Party's 18th Party Congress in Beijing on Friday, the chairman of China Telecom Wang Xiaochu said his company hopes to start selling the iPhone 5 by early December, if not sooner than that.
Chang Xiaobing, the chairman of China Unicom, the third biggest mobile provider in the world, said he was less certain of his company's ability to sell the iPhone 5 in November or December since his company is still waiting for the Chinese government to approve their license to sell Apple's phone in China.
"We hope to offer it this year, but what I say doesn't matter," Chang said.
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At the Sept. 19 unveiling for the iPhone 5, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced plans to release the new 4-inch iPhone in 100 countries by the end of the year. Within its first two weeks available, Apple rolled out the iPhone 5 in record time, releasing it in 31 countries and on several different cellular networks.
The iPhone 5 is also the first Apple phone to feature the high-speed Long-Term Evolution (LTE) network. Currently, the global LTE carriers supporting this phone include AT&T, Bell, Sprint, Verizon, Telus, Deutsche Telekom, Telstra, EE, and SingTel -- as well as a number of regional carriers like Cricket, C Spire, Nex-Tech Wireless, MTA Solutions, nTelos, and a slew of others.
It's currently unknown as to how many Chinese carriers will support the iPhone 5, but considering how China accounted for 16 percent of the company's overall revenue last quarter ($5.7 billion), Apple has every reason to expand its presence in the rapidly-developing country by selling the phone to as many carriers as possible.
The iPhone 5, Apple’s sixth-generation smartphone, is 18 percent thinner than its predecessor (the iPhone 4S) at just 7.6mm, and is 20 percent lighter than the 4S at 112 grams. The iPhone 5 features a bigger 4-inch screen with a 16:9 aspect ratio for watching videos in full widescreen, and Apple has again made its new in-cell display a Retina Display, with a screen resolution of 1136 x 640 screen and a density of 336 ppi.
The iPhone 5’s screen, according to an extensive analysis by Amherst, NH-based DisplayMate, is actually a “significant improvement” over the smaller screens in the iPhone 4S and 4, and is also substantially brighter and more accurate than the screen in Samsung’s Galaxy S3, which many consider to be the greatest rival to Apple and the iPhone 5. Read the full lab comparison here.
The iPhone 5 is all about speed; in addition to support for the LTE network, the iPhone 5 also features a custom-built A6 processor, which actually boasts more than twice the overall processing performance of any iOS device that’s come before it, including the third-generation iPad, as well as a newly-enhanced camera infrastructure and the new 8-pin ”Lightning” dock connector. The iPhone 5 is powered by iOS 6, which features more than 200 new features for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, including several enhancements to its virtual personal assistant Siri, the handy application for movie tickets and coupons called Passbook, and the completely redesigned -- albeit half-baked -- Maps application from Apple.
Apple sells the iPhone 5 in two color combinations - black and slate, or white and silver - and at three different storage capacities: The cheapest iPhone 5 comes with 16 GB of space and sells for $199, and after that, it’s $299 for 32 GB and $399 for 64GB. Customers are not charged extra for the LTE feature, as the chip is included in all phone models, but due to complications with LTE frequencies, iPhones purchased on one network won't work on another's LTE network when unlocked. In other words, if you buy an unlocked AT&T iPhone 5 in the US, it still won't work on Verizon's or Sprint's LTE networks.
We'll update you with more information on the various iPhone 5 release dates in China as we learn more.