Eagle-eyed reporters at TechWeb today have spotted some good news for Apple fans in China: the iPhone 5 has finally received its network permits from MIIT. Permits were issued for both the China Telecom and China Unicom versions of the phone, which means that both versions of the handset should go on sale shortly.
Apple’s official China site still hasn’t announced a launch date, but the network permits are generally the last major regulatory hurdle between a wireless device and commercial release in China. TechWeb reporters spotted the permits on MIIT’s official site, and although it can be difficult to be certain what device the permits refer to because they only list model numbers, it seems pretty clear in this case that the iPhone 5 is the device in question.
It seems likely now that the phone will be released in December, which is more or less on par for Apple’s usual three-month delay when releasing wireless products in China. The iPhone 5 was announced and launched for most of the world back in September, but as with all Apple devices, Chinese Apple fans have had to wait while government bureaus run the devices through the usual round of tests before issuing it a network permit — or just buy a gray-market import from the US or Hong Kong.
Despite the widespread availability of the gray-market handsets, official iPhones are so popular that the last time Apple launched one here, it was forced to shut down its Beijing flagship store because of rioting phone scalpers fighting in the long overnight line to get the phones. Will the next iPhone launch in China be as contentious — and violent — as the last one was? Hopefully not, but you never know. Either way, we don’t recommend getting in any overnight lines for the phone before the launch, as Apple will likely continue its recent policy of making customers reserve the phones online before picking them up in stores to avoid violence.