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With China as one of the biggest markets for Apple products, local consumers were giddy over the prospect of the iPhone 6’s mainland debut. The country’s three big telecom operators ran ad campaigns, and there were all kinds of leaks online.
But now the latest iPhone’s Chinese debut has been delayed, with various theories being floated for why the world’s largest smartphone market will miss the initial rollout of the iPhone 6.
Some theorized that China was left out of the initial launch as retaliation by Apple for leaks about the new phones in the run-up to its official launch, while some state media say the delay is due to regulators accusing the company of spying on Chinese citizens through the iPhone’s location-tracking functions.
The real reason for the holdup appears to be delays in government approval, but there is widespread speculation about why that is taking so long.
According to China Daily, the phone is not on the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology’s list of telecom devices that have been approved to sell on the mainland.
“It remains unknown if Apple has not yet handed in applications to the ministry or if the industry watchdog put the U.S. company on hold,” China Daily reported.
There are fears that the delay could also be linked to antitrust probes into foreign firms.
Chinese regulators this week fined Volkswagen and Chrysler for violating antitrust laws, and overseas lobbying groups are currently up in arms over a series of antitrust investigations and fines for foreign firms, which they say treat them unfairly.
Last year, China’s state-owned media attacked Apple for offering Chinese customers inferior warranties and repair service and lined up celebrities to attack the Cupertino-based firm, forcing Apple to issue an apology.
Indeed, relations have long been thorny, but Apple CEO Tim Cook has made high-profile visits to China to work on various issues with regulators.
Whenever this kind of delay has happened before — it occurred with the iPhone 5 as well — there was a huge gray market in phones brought up from Hong Kong, prompting rules banning airline employees from bringing more than two phones at a time when flying from Hong Kong and other restrictions.
Apple has less than 7 percent of the Chinese smartphone market, lagging far behind Samsung and local brands Xiaomi and Lenovo, but the iPhone 6 is expected to give the tech giant a major boost.
While the next-generation iPhone will be available in 10 markets starting Sept. 19, Hong Kong is the only Chinese territory to take part in the initial launch, and it’s not clear when the iPhone 6 will go on sale in the mainland.
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