Apple, Inc. will gain entry into the lucrative Chinese market through an agreement signed this week with China Unicom that will enable Unicom to market Apple’s coveted iPhone to customers starting this fall. Unicom, China’s second largest cell phone company with 141 million subscribers, hopes the addition of the iPhone to its handset lineup will boost its competitive position against China Mobile, the world’s largest wireless carrier in terms of subscribers with a staggering customer count of 497 million. The three-year deal comes as Unicom prepares to launch a new third-generation (3G) network on September 28 that will cover 335 Chinese cities by the end of this year and that, according to observers, will also be the only 3G network in the nation to be compatible with the iPhone. In compliance with government rules that restrict Wi-Fi capabilities on wireless devices, iPhones sold by Unicom will lack Wi-Fi functionality. Although Unicom hopes iPhone sales will enable it to capture up to one-third of China’s 3G market by the end of next year, sources say that goal could be challenged by China Mobile—which agreed last month to develop smartphones with Dell Inc. that resemble the iPhone—and by members of the Chinese populace that already use unlicensed “gray market” iPhones that operate on existing GSM networks.