Apple Inc has announced it will release the new model of its iPad on July 20, but the launch could be greeted with indifference in the Chinese mainland market, which has been forced to wait for the new tablet that was rolled out to the rest of world several months ago.
The United States company launched its new iPad in the US on March 8, but mainland customers have had to wait for more than 130 days for the new model of the popular tablet.
China's Telecommunication Equipment Certification Centre website said the iPad's license was issued on June 1.
But despite the new device being approved by the Chinese authorities, the company did not release the product because of a trademark lawsuit with a local company.
Apple is already selling the device in more than 50 countries and regions, including the US, Japan, Brunei and Croatia. But the latest iPad has not yet legally been sold in stores in the Chinese mainland - the biggest market for Apple products outside the US.
China contributed US$7.9 billion, about 20 per cent of Apple's revenues, during the second fiscal quarter of 2012.
Apple's announcement of the launch came only days after the company reached a settlement with Chinese company Proview Technology over the iPad trademark.
Last week, the Guangdong High People's Court said Apple paid $60 million to settle the lawsuit with Proview for using the iPad trademark on the Chinese mainland. Before the settlement, some local governments had confiscated Apple iPads from distributors and dealers because of the trademark dispute.
In the 130 days since the new iPad was launched in the US but officially unavailable on the mainland, gray market dealers have moved in on the market with iPads brought into the Chinese mainland from Hong Kong. However, compared with Apple's previous products, the iPad and the iPad2, the latest model did not perform well, said vendors from Zhongguancun, Beijing's biggest electronic product market.
"The price [of the new iPad] has dropped to around 3,300 yuan [$523] from 3,800 yuan [$596] in the last few months, but customer reaction still isn't as passionate as it was for the previous ones," said Li Hai, an Apple vendor at Zhongguancun.
The official iPad released on July 20 will cost 3,688 yuan ($579).
Li said customers complain that the new product is heavier than the iPad2 and lacks any major improvements from the old version.
Zhou Xinghai, a 28-year- old finance company employee, said the higher price of the official version made buying on the gray market a better option.
"A 3,688 yuan official product price isn't too attractive to me," said Zhou. "If I buy an iPad that has come from Hong Kong and I can get all warranties, why bother to pay extra?"
Domestic research firm Analysys International said last year Apple sold at least 3 million iPads in China, accounting for about 80 per cent of China's tablet market share.
Apple has said the new iPad will be available through its online store, selected Apple authorized resellers and by reservation from Apple retail stores in China.