China Unicom did nothing to dispel rumors that it plans to be Apple's iPhone partner in China by posting images and specifications of the iPhone 3G on Tuesday.
The details (in Chinese), spotted by IDG News Service, are perhaps the strongest sign that China's second-largest carrier has won the deal to supply the iPhone to the world's largest mobile phone market. At this point, some may wonder why China Unicom wouldn't just wait for the new iPhone that is almost universally expected to arrive sometime around the middle of this year, but Chinese media reports have suggested that China Unicom and Apple reached a breakthrough in their negotiations just last week, and China Unicom plans to launch a 3G network in May.
Apple and China Mobile, the country's largest carrier, have negotiated off and on for over a year about bringing the iPhone to China but have thus far failed to reach a deal. Part of the problem with the China Mobile talks was that the large carrier reportedly wanted some control over the App Store in China, as well as a version of the iPhone made to work with a homegrown 3G standard used only by China Mobile.
China Unicom has 130 million subscribers before which Apple can push the iPhone, as compared to AT&T's 77 million subscribers.