China Unicom, the second largest mobile carrier in the world's largest mobile market, has reportedly bought 5 million iPhones from Apple as it makes ready to launch the device in September.

These won't be the same iPhones sold in the rest of the world, however, as they'll be using China-specific WCDMA radios, and will also lack Wi-Fi. Aiya. That, of course, leaves the door open for gray market iPhones -- a staple in the nation since the original iPhone 2G launch in 2007 -- to linger around and compete with the official, crippled version. (Insert Verizon joke here if you must).

Also changing according to the report is Apple's share of the money. While they typically get 20-30% of profits, they'll be making do with 1000-1100 Yuan per unit under terms of this deal (which allegedly may run as long as 3 years).

Either way, and long-in-the-making though it may be, it's a huge deal for Apple and the iPhone in a huge market. Guess we'll see what this does for Gartner's numbers next year...

(International Business Times via Apple Insider)