China Unicom one small step from selling iPhone 4S

The iPhone 4S (s aapl) has made waves around the world, but it has yet to even enter the water in China, Apple’s second-most important market. We should see how it does there soon enough, however, as a launch is just around the corner, according to a China Unicom (s chu) exec.

Sales executive Yu Yingtao at the state-backed exclusive official Chinese iPhone carrier told Chinese news site Sina Tech that sales of the iPhone 4S will begin as soon as the company gets a certificate from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology permitting it to do so. All the paperwork is filed, according to Yu, and the only thing that remains is getting final sign-off.

That should happen very soon, and some regional branches of China Unicom are already anticipating the launch by providing advance bookings for the iPhone 4S to customers. The iPhone 4S has already passed governing Chinese wireless regulatory standards, which means the hardware is legal to sell once it gets this final permission to use cellular networks.

Demand for Apple products in China is high, as demonstrated by the 10-minute sellout of iPhones in Hong Kong following the 4S launch there. Many of those waiting in line were said to be gray market resellers, who would be passing on the devices unlocked to Chinese customers. MIC Gadget suggests the iPhone 4S will be more popular in China as an off-contract device, since millions of subscribers use them on China Mobile, which doesn’t have official carrier status, but this launch will nonetheless be one to watch in terms of gauging the iPhone 4S’s continued global success.