China Mobile Asking Apple for Crippled iPhones
China Mobile is requesting a customized version of the iPhone for official release on its network. This is the opposite of an enhanced model, though, with disabled WiFi and W_CDMA chips (The article specifies "disabled" and not "removed"). Ironically, something like 400,000 iPhones are already operating on China Mobiles network, having been jailbroken.
The paper cited a Daiwa Institute of Research analyst as saying Beijing has not yet approved handsets with such features, and that Apple's iPhone manufacturing partner Foxconn is now waiting for authorization to begin shipping models to China Mobile with the W-CDMA and Wi-Fi chips disabled.
Cellular News (by way of CNet) explains the odd request is a result of competitive concerns. China Mobile is believed to be building its 3G network using the Chinese developed TD-SCDMA format, so it hopes that disabling 3G functionality will deter users from unlocking the device and jumping ship to rival China Telecom, whose network supports W-CDMA.
In its report, the Cellular News highlighted the broad market opportunity presented to Apple by the Chinese market. Unlike in the US, where advanced smart phones still cater to a relatively small percentage of users, the market in China is a vast, entertainment-oriented business driven by consumers.