Will China Get the New iPhone EARLY?

China Unicom (NYSE:CHU) customers may get the next-generation iPhone as early as by the end of the year after the wireless carrier’s executives held successful negotiations with Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL). China Unicom deputy general manager Li Gang and a few other executives were in the U.S. last month to meet Apple officials and managed to get approval for a release date that is much earlier than usual for the country, according to Sohu IT.

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“Directors Li Gang and Zhou have just returned to China, China Unicom’s introduction of the iPhone 5 doesn’t have any suspense. It should come out before the end of the year,” the translated report said.

China usually has to wait months to receive new products for sale after Apple launches in the U.S. While the iPhone 4S was unveiled simultaneously in the U.S., Canada, Australia, the U.K., France, Germany, and Japan last October, China had to wait nearly three months until January to receive the handset.

On Tuesday, Apple sent out invites for a special September 12 event in San Francisco that hinted at the launch of the new iPhone.

China Unicom (NYSE:CHA), that country’s second largest carrier, started selling the iPhone in 2009 after agreeing to a three-year deal with Apple. China Telecom received the phone in February, while China Mobile (NYSE:CHL), the biggest provider, is still without it. The iPhone has helped China Unicom add new subscribers and reported 60 million 3G customers in July. This year will also be the first when the carrier’s 3G revenue exceeds that of its 2G business.

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