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iPhone 4S goes to China; Siri to start speaking Chinese in 2012

January 4, 2012 | 11:24 am

A Beijing couple check out an iPhone.

Siri, how do you say profit in Chinese?

One answer Apple's digital assistant might consider giving is: start selling the iPhone 4S in China. And starting on Jan. 13th, Apple will do just that.

The company said Wednesday that China will be among 22 countries that soon will get the newest iPhone, one of Apple's hottest-selling yet.  The iPhone now accounts for nearly half of Apple's annual revenue, and some analysts believe it earns the company more than 60% of its profits.

China is one of the world's largest mobile device markets, with close to a billion cellphone users by some estimates. Apple currently partners with China Unicom, one of the larger carriers with close to 200 million cellular subscribers.

Apple said Wednesday it had no current plans to announce a partnership with China Mobile, the country's largest carrier with more than 630 million subscribers (a user base that, somewhat amazingly, is more than twice the size of the U.S. population).  But for months now Apple has been rumored to be nailing down a deal with China Mobile, and millions of the carriers' customers are already using the iPhone by modifying the device to work on their network.

Will Siri actually be able to speak and understand Mandarin?  Eventually, yes.  An Apple spokesman said the company plans to add official language support in 2012 — and that will include Chinese.  But Siri won't yet be multilingual when the phone hits Chinese stores this month.

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— David Sarno

Photo: A couple look at an iPhone in Beijing in November.  Credit: Diego Azubel / EPA

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