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Tuesday, March 24, 2009, 08:00 am PT (11:00 am ET)

iPhone information appears on China Unicom website

Photos and specifications for the iPhone have been posted on the website of wireless carrier China Unicom, a sign that Apple may finally be ready to enter the world's largest cell phone market.

The information provided on the website of the cellular provider's Shanghai branch does not indicate whether the Apple handset will be available from China Unicom, but joins references to similar handsets like the Android-based G1 that will be supported by the carriers upcoming 3G network.

According to Macworld UK, the site changes come one week after China Unicom representatives met stateside with Apple executives in what was described in media reports as a "breakthrough" session geared towards offering the iPhone 3G on the Chinese carrier's network.

A spokesperson at China Unicom headquarters could not explain why the information had been posted on one of the carrier's regional websites, though it's reportedly not uncommon for the company's branches to operate independently.

Exactly one month ago, British consulting firm firm Ovum suggested Apple may have switched its choice of carrier from China Mobile to China Unicom in a bid to finally deliver the iPhone to Chinese customers.

A launch was said to hinge largely on China Unicom's first trial run of its new 3G network this May. In contrast to China Mobile, which is pushing the government's TD-SCDMA wireless standard, the smaller provider will be running its first trials for an iPhone-compatible WCDMA network which would let Apple sell its current handset virtually unchanged with full feature support.

Although Apple has long pursued a deal with China Mobile, the world's largest cellular provider with over 415 million subscribers, talks have reportedly stalled over the government-backed carrier's insistence on controlling the local version of the App Store, among other demands.

It's estimated that 20 percent of all mobile phone users in China will be on 3G networks in the next three years; China Unicom counted among its customers approximately 125 million GSM subscribers as of last August.