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iPhone inches closer to China

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It's official: China Unicom chairman Chang Xiaobing has disclosed that his company has indeed been negotiating with Apple to bring the iPhone to China.

We had reported rumors of such talks late last months - but now that chairman Chang has spoken, the talks have been elevated in newsworthiness.

However, according to a Reuters report, Chang didn't go so far as to announce a deal, softening his remarks by saying, "We are in talks with many handset suppliers, including Apple."

Rival China Mobile had also been in talks with Apple, but those negotiations apparently broke down over a year ago.

But even if the iPhone comes to China, don't expect it to be an instant success. Although Apple may be a hot brand in the West, it's no Coca-Cola or McDonald's in China.

Also, Chinese clonemakers have been busy copying it and offering their clone-phones at prices that may very well undercut anything Apple has to offer.

The list of iPhone knock-offs in China is staggering. Here's a sampling: the SciPhone i68, GiPhone F5, HiPhone, ePhone M8, DESAY M888, Cect P168, Meizu M8, and the ever-popular CECT-A380i.

Knowing China's fast-and-loose attitude toward software piracy, we don't expect that any Apple efforts to take these phone makers to Chinese court for hardware piracy would bear much fruit.

China Unicom may be poised to launch the iPhone, but it will be launching it into a sea of clones. ®

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